Virginia Bluebells – What Could be More Beautiful

Summary – A gallery of pretty pictures of one of my favorite spring flowers. © Moi

 


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Stone Bridge

Manassas National Battlefield  Park

The flowers are less than 12″ above the ground

Imagine where I was with camera & tripod to make these

Click on any image for a full screen slide show

 

 

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Focus Stacking – Illustration of Results

Summary – A few days ago I wrote about the Depth of Field  and Diffraction tradeoff. I mentioned focus stacking as an alternative. Here are illustrative examples.

 


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Roll mouse to see aperture extremes
f/45 and f/3.8

002D300-_140424_150318__DSC1247_orig-Editblog001D300-_140424_150257__DSC1246_orig-Editblog

Each image is a single exposure (not stacked)
Illustrates maximum depth of field for this setup
Nikon D300, Nikkor 105mm 1:1 macro, tripod, remote release


About this post

You want everything from near to far in focus, but

You don’t want to sacrifice sharpness for depth of field

To accomplish this -

You need focus stacking software

(But mostly for macros or extreme closeups, less so landscapes)

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This is a follow-up to this post

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For detailed info

Search for focus stacking as a general topic, or

Search for Helicon Focus or Zerene Stacker

Two popular programs I used for this post

My purpose is not to provide a focus stacking tutorial

The two program sites listed above do that

Nor is it to review focus stacking programs

Web reviews cite the two above as among the best

Free 30-day trials are available

Be your own judge

I think they’re a bit pricey

Unless you really need them

There also is a free program that I didn’t try


In contrast to the above rollover

Here is the result of a four-exposure stack

Click for full screen

You need it to actually see differences

Left to right

Single exposure; stack using Helicon; stack using Zerene

The red X’s show where I focused

Left image @ f/36 – max. DOF, max. Diffraction

Each stack @f/8 – min. diffraction (DOF through stack software)

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Figure Zero

Slight differences can be seen between

The single exposure and the stacks &

Between the two different stack programs themselves

I used default settings throughout

Might be able to better with fussing, but

I’d rather not have to spend the time (nor the $100 or more)


OK – Here’s an example that

Shows the utility of focus stacking software

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Click image for full screen – not very useful without doing so

Left is single exposure followed by Helicon & Zerene

For the single exposure – f/36, focused on the 6 in the 16

Stacks – 19 exposures each at f/8

Focus – roughly equal steps along the ruler from front to back

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Fig 1.

Something to note – image gets cropped during stacking

(Why? Web search reveals all ;) )

It’s clear that stacking greatly enhances DOF over the 1-exposure

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The next three images are 1:1 blow-ups of Fig 1.

Fig. 2 is centered near the single exposure’s focus point

Difference between single & stacks minimal (as expected)

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Fig. 2

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Fig. 3 (close end of ruler) shows

1 – Improved focus due to stacking

2 – Loss of detail in center image along right side

As compared to the right-hand image

(it’s easy to see if you click for full size)

This is an observation occasionally seen in reviews

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Fig.3

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Fig. 4 (off in the distance) shows

1 – Dramatic focus improvement using stacking

2 – Here, the center version appears sharper

(reversing the perceived quality at the near end in Fig.3)

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Fig.4

 


So there you have it -

The previous post explaining

You can’t have sharp focus from zero to infinity

With a single exposure

While simultaneously maintaining perfect sharpness

Today’s post provides an alternative

Which, while valuable for some macro work

Adds marginal value to non-macro work

 As shown in Figure Zero

Landscapes using a telephoto lens and

With important foreground & background matter

May be an exception to macro-only

More to follow in a few days

IF anyone is interested ??

 


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A Spring Walk in the Forest

Summary – A spring ritual – walking through a nearby state forest. © Moi

 


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Took a tripod plus 2 cameras & lenses

But then – totally out of character for me

I only used one camera, a macro lens – AND no tripod

Just enjoyed the stroll in nature

Photos aren’t especially good – but I don’t care ;-)

Talk about going overboard with saturation!!

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All in Focus or All Sharp – You can’t have Both

Summary – Depth of Field (the area in focus) and Diffraction (affects sharpness) are a basic photography tradeoff. In general, one comes at the expense of the other. Some illustrated examples (without the physics).

 


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So – you want the nearest to farthest points in a scene in focus

(this is depth of field)

You also want sharpness throughout

(diffraction can cause loss of sharpness)

Bottom line – you can’t have both

(unless the subject is a flat surface AND

you’ve aligned the sensor face with that surface)

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Post based on an email from a reader
Who noticed I used f/51 on an image in a recent post
Asked about diffraction

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This post assumes you know that

As you change your aperture to higher numbers

f/22 for example (not f/4)

Two things happen to the resulting capture

1. More of the scene (near to far) is in focus

2. Sharpness can be lost (blurriness sets in)

All else equal, the results are sensor size dependent

If you want a comprehensive discussion

Search the net on DOF and diffraction

My main intent is to show examples

Not to teach a course in physics ;)


The illustration subject is a camera bag

Lots of texture detail to judge sharpness

Tilted back from the camera to judge DOF

I focused precisely (Liveview X10) on the

Pointy-bottom at the center of the letter M

Keep your eye near here for diffraction effects

Aperture was changed in 1-stop increments

f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22

For this camera (Pixel Diameter: 5.5 µm)

Diffraction should become noticeable at about f/11

Nikon D300 + high quality Nikkor 105mm macro lens

Tripod & remote shutter release for stability

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Roll over for f/4 vs f/22 comparison

The DOF change is very obvious

(Recall that the bag is tilted away from the camera)

The loss of sharpness is nearly imperceptible

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I focused on the M’s point in DOMKE

2014-04-23_9-52-33 2014-04-23_9-53-31

This next series is f/4 through f/22 in 1-stop increments

 Click on f/4 (top left) and step through via right arrow

To see the gradual change

Or – from f/4, toggle backward & forward to|from f/22

To see the big change  in DOF, but

The sharpness loss near the M is barely noticeable


Rollover for another view of the two extremes

You can actually see the loss of sharpness near M’s point

That’s a “big-whoop” (from cynical me)

2014-04-23_9-54-31

2014-04-23_9-55-51

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Conclusions?

Draw your own….

For my style

DOF (both shallow & large)

is very important

Diffraction concerns

aren’t foremost in my mind

If f/8 or less gives me the DOF I want

I won’t stop down further unnecessarily

Nor will I stay at f/8 or lower

If it doesn‘t provide the DOF I want

For my style, diffraction concerns are over-blown

For you, only you can decide

Test your gear and do it on a variety of subject matter

Macro, close up, landscape, portrait – the works

Do not, as some do, refuse to go above f/8

Simply because you read somewhere that was bad

Shoot for yourself – not theoretical-number-rules

For me & my style

Big DOF changes (in either extreme) are

Far more important (and noticeable)

Than slight changes in sharpness

Arty needs selective (shallow) focus

Landscapes need a large DOF (usually)

In neither case should diffraction concerns

Be over-riding (IMO)

Focus stacking software might be a consideration

I’ve never felt the need

Not anal-compulsive enough I guess ;)

 


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Spring Has Sprung – Red & Pink Dogwoods

Summary – Just a bunch of pretty pictures of one of my spring favorites. © Moi

 


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Click on any image for a full screen slide show

 

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HDR – How it Works & How to Use it Properly

Summary – The clearest explanation of how HDR works I’ve seen. Also uses that explanation to demonstrate why many HDR images look so, well HDR-ish (as opposed to natural).

Another great post

by Ming Thein – a good photographer who is

An even better writer

To be expected if you attended Oxford at 16 ;)


I won’t dwell on my feelings about HDR (not all positive)

Ming pretty much says it all

(BUT – if you really want more – here are my 60 HDR posts)

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Read his excellent article by clicking on this image

(and learn about dynamic range & zone system at the same time

2014-04-14_9-18-19© Ming Thein

 

 


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Visual Design – Shapes (part 3)

Summary – Light creates tone & color, the basic building blocks of visual design. Tones & color, in turn, give rise to visual design’s primary elements – lines, shapes, textures & perspective. Previous posts in this series looked at lines. Now – on to shapes. This is part 3 of 3.

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Note – part 2 of 3 had the lowest number of views – by FAR, more than 50% below average – of any post in months. It was well written & informative. My takeaway – this is a topic that holds little interest for the typical follower of this blog who decides to read or not based on the summary topic description that accompanies the email announcement they get with each new post. That said, today’s post will be the last in the visual design series. For those of you looking for more, buy the two Freeman Patterson books I’d referenced previously and again at the end of this post. Get it from the horse’s-mouth so to speak.

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Let’s look a some real world examples that illustrate shapes. The shapes in most images may not be so obvious as the examples but these serve the purpose of making some points about shapes. Click on any image to enlarge it.

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#1 – The circle is a powerful shape. This image shows an obvious large circle. It also has many smaller circles – some are all green and some are warmer colored circles inside the small green ones. Note that a shape can contain other shapes within itself – or be formed by a combination of other shapes. The smaller circles within the large circle create a texture (another visual design symbol to be covered later). Textures do not exist on a two-dimensional surface – just the illusion of one. The illusion is created by some combination of shapes and lines.

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#2 – This is a variation of #1. Although the circle is cut off by a corner of the frame, our mind still recognizes it as a circle. As a side note – the circle is located in the lower left part of the frame. This is the area most favored by our visual system. We tend to start there and return there to rest the eye. (Also, things that start near the lower left and proceed toward the upper right are viewed as “positive” statements.) Place the “circle” in either of the other four corners and ask yourself if your feelings about the “message” changes.

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#3. This simply illustrates that an object can depart pretty far from its idealized shape and still be recognized for what it represents. The reason for making this point is that although this is, and always will be, a water-lily and not a circle – its psychological impact on the viewer is similar to that of a circle.

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#4. Three circles – yes. But combined they form a fourth shape – a soft oblique curved shape extending from the lower left to the upper right. (See the note on upward left to right movement in #2 above).

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#5. A circle derivative. This oval is placed on the oblique which is more pleasing than vertical or horizontal. Further, although a single circle doesn’t suggest movement or directionality (that took multiple circles as in #4) a single oval can – especially when placed on the oblique. Which direction is this poppy bud moving your eye?

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#6. What have we here? If you said three rectangles you’re right. Note the important role played by the frame. It forms three sides of the upper and lower rectangles and two of the middle. Big deal you say. So what?  First – You need to recognize that the frame is every bit as important in creating visual design symbols as are real objects in your scene. Further, you have almost total control over the size and placement of these “virtual shapes”. In this example we can control whether there are one, two or three rectangles as well as the relative size of each as compared to the others, and their vertical placement in the frame. This control is exerted primarily by lens focal length, camera height, and camera angle (tipped up/down/left right) as well as horizontal versus vertical orientation. Lot & lots of design choices to be made for just this simplest of landscapes – and each choice tells a different story.

Do you see that a two rectangle version of this need not include the water?? Yes, the water and sky version is obvious. Water and sand are also obvious. What happens when you get flat on the ground with your camera? The height of the water rectangle, proportional to sand and sky, gets smaller & smaller as the camera gets lower & lower. Stop taking pictures with the camera always at eye level.

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#7 – Two rectangles. The design decision was where to place the horizon (how large to make each rectangle?).  The story here is mostly about the sunrise and clouds and not about Lake Michigan except as context. A very simple image – two textured rectangles with contrasting warm and cool colors.

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#8 – Two triangles, each with two sides formed by the image frame. Since this image is fairly abstract, it could be rotated and flipped without much harm. It wasn’t, but if the actual scene had been as shown but flipped horizontally then I most likely would have flipped it to the way it’s shown here – upward left to right (stated by those who study visual psychology, not me) really works for me to the point that I may over use it.

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#9 – Here we have two rectangles again as in #7. This time there’s a twist – the lower rectangle is made up of two triangles as in #8. This adds a visual dynamic of movement which is missing in #7. Which, if either, appear more restful and calming to you – #7 or #9?

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#10 – This image made up of lines, rectangles, a triangle, texture and perspective (a visual design symbol “full house”). It was done as an “academic exercise”. I was forcing myself to ignore “reality” and to focus (another bad pun) solely on visual design symbols – forcing myself to see photographically and to put the names of the objects (bricks, torn wallpaper, etc.) out of my mind.

A variation on the exercise is to do this in black and white thus removing the possible distractions of color. The right hand image was rotated for display purposes but  since it’s all about shapes (and not a door, chimney, flue cover, wall) no real harm was done.

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Exercise – make images along the lines of these last two. Force yourself to see visual design symbols and try to forget what is actually before your eyes. Try making the same symbols different sizes (focal length and distance) from one image to another. And – try placing the symbols in different locations within the frame. Ask yourself how the different sizes and placements change the “feel”. Also, use the frame to create shapes. Don’t just do this for a few minutes. Stick with it long enough to make at least 25 images – and then do it again each day for several days.

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Freeman Patterson is the master of photographic visual design. If you are at all serious about improving your images buy Photography and the Art of Seeing and Photographing the World Around You.

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