Monday, July 12, 2010

Increase Depth of Focus in Macros

A limited depth of focus is one factor to consider when composing any photo, but it becomes especially important for macro photos. All other things equal, the closer you get to your subject the shallower the depth of focus. You can leverage that to create some interesting moods, but sometimes you want a sharp focus across the entire image. In some instances you can get by with lots of light and a small aperture to improve the focus. That might not always be feasible or possible.

One alternative I recently “discovered” was sitting right in front of my eyes in Photoshop CS4. Photoshop lets you blend a series of images where the planes of focus in the series span the object. Here's how:
1 – Select your images in Lightroom (Note they should be organized in order by plane of focus)
2 – Select Photo->Edit In->Open as layers in Photoshop
3 – In Photoshop, select all the layers and align the images (Edit->Auto-Align Layers, use auto projection)
4 – After the layers are aligned, then blend them together (Edit->Auto-Blend Layers, Stack Images and seamless blend)
Let it run and then, voila – an image that is crystal clear in focus from the first focus plane to the last. You can flatten the image and save the result.

Here is an example using a dried leaf that wasn't pressed so it curled a bit. The first two images are the first and last frames in the sequence of focus across the leaf. I took about 12 images from start to finish. In the first image, the point closest to the camera (the central part of the leaf near the stem) is in focus but the tip and edges of the leaf are blurred. In the second image, the tip of the leaf is in sharp focus but the base of the leaf is blurred. Click on either image to see a larger version.

Ridge of the Leaf Tip of the Leaf

The image below is the result after blending all the planes of focus in Photoshop. By masking and blending the sharp parts of each image, Photoshop forms a composite image where everything is in focus. It takes a bit of extra work, but if you want a larger depth of focus this technique works well. Give it a try.

Maple Colors

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Sodastream

A couple weeks ago Dianne and I were visiting Rookwood Commons to get some frozen yogurt at Yagööt – a favorite for Dianne. We were there during the day and decided to take a walk around the commons. One of my favorite stores to visit there is Sur La Table, a cooking store. We stopped in to look around and one item caught my eye. The sodastream (shown at right) is a unit that lets you carbonate your own water. I was drinking a lot of diet soda and the cans were piling up in our recycle bin. I also like sparkling water (San Pellegrino is my favorite), so the unit seemed like a great idea. Dianne knew it was over as soon as I saw it. It took me a couple minutes, but I made the impulse buy and picked up some diet root beer flavoring and fruit essence flavors.

It was one of the best impulse buys I’ve made in a long time! I use chilled, filtered water from our Brita pitcher to fill the bottles. Using near ice cold water makes the carbonation process more effective. You connect a bottle to the unit and open the carbon dioxide valve in short bursts until the release value kicks in at least three times. Remove the bottle and cap it until you use it. It only takes a minute! I usually keep one of the bottles as plain sparkling water and add some flavor to the other bottle. The diet root beer flavoring is pretty good and the fruits are good too, although adding a couple drops of lemon juice or lime juice (or both) works just fine too!

If you like sparkling water, I highly recommend the sodastream unit!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Skittles Tube Sock

I don't typically eat Skittles, but this commercial just might make me go out and buy some. It is SO weird I love it! The Skittles folks owe their marketing group big kudos for this one. Enjoy if you haven't seen it yet.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Look of Bugs

If you're in to microphotography of insects and insect parts, you have to check out the work of Charles Krebs. The video below is a news story from Seattle that gives a good amount of information on his technique. I like the fact that he uses what he has and improvises to get some beautiful photos of insects. Go to his web site to see many wonderful photos. Thanks to The Strobist for pointing out this one.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring Is Here

Early Spring Garden-2After several days in a row with temperatures way above normal, Mother Nature got a huge push to get plants going. It seemed like the daffodils came up in just a few days, everything greened up, and the flowering trees came into bloom. It's a beautiful time of year when the Winter greys disappear.

I made a trip over to Michele's garden -- my first visit in the Spring. It was a beautiful, sunny day. There were several types of daffodils in bloom. One is shown at right -- taking using a fill flash to get some light into the center of the flower. A fill flash also creates some shadows that give a bit of depth to the straight on view.

There were lots of flowering trees to look at too. The photo below shows a close-up of one of the blossoms.

Early Spring Garden-22

This is one of my favorite photos of tree blossoms.
Early Spring Garden-19

Busting OutThe subjects I found most interesting were the fiddlehead ferns that were just starting to emerge from the ground. Michele pointed them out -- otherwise I would have missed them. The photo at right shows them just as they stalks start to come out. When they get up a few inches, you can see a well developed structure even though they are only about the size of a $0.25 piece. The first photo below shows a macro view at an early stage. As they get a bit higher, a kind of red fuzz appears on the stalks and the head. The second photo below shows the fuzzy texture. In both cases I used a fill flash on the side away from the direct sun to get rid of the dark shadow.

Starting to Emerge

Fuzzy Fern

You can see all the photos from my visit in a Flickr set here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

An Annoying Oil Change

Dear Jiffy Lube,

Thanks much for leaving the air intake disconnected after my last visit to one of your establishments for an oil change. No really, thanks. That helped me detect the smell of burning transmission fluid quickly. The fumes were getting sucked in to the seating area very quickly. Why were there fumes? The dipstick wasn't inserted properly and fluid was coming out, running down the lower part of the engine, and dripping on the hot exhaust manifold and burning. The smell let me pick it up quickly before the smoke coming from under the hood got too bad. I only went in for an oil change, so coming out with a transmission fluid leak was a bonus.

I returned and complained. I explained the situation to the manager and asked him to check everything they did. He said he'd fix it and clean up the mess. I pulled over a block after leaving a second time and checked the area where the leak was. It seemed to be fixed.

But I hadn't learned my lesson. I didn't check everything like I should have.

Two days later, after driving about 800 miles and parking in a spotless garage, I pulled the car out the next morning only to discover a fluid spot on the floor. Yup, I was leaking oil. Not a lot (thank goodness), but enough to be worrisome since I had never lost any oil before my visit two days before. Another bonus when I went to look under the car. The rubber flap that allows access to the oil drain plug and oil filter was sagging down because only two of the four clips that hold it in place were installed after the last oil change.

To make a long story short, a visit to a mechanic to put the car on a lift to check the drain plug at least slowed the loss. He didn't have clips, but used zip ties to secure the flap. When we got home I went to my Subaru dealer to get it fixed. They informed me that the filter used was an after market brand that doesn't seat well and leaks. A replacement from my dealer fixed the issue and my car is back to normal.

Was I bad for not checking the work done on my car after visiting one of your establishments? Yup. Did I expect quality service from Jiffy Lube that I wouldn't have to check and that wouldn't create problems? Yup. Did I expect the use of proper parts? Yup. If you don't have the right parts, should your mechanics say sorry, explain the situation, and not change the oil? Yup. Have I lost trust? Yup. Will I now drive miles across the metro area to visit my dealer for an oil change rather than visit the Jiffy Lube about a mile away? Yup. In the long run, it will be a time saver for me.

Monday, August 17, 2009

DDR Style Alarm Clock

Undoubtedly you've seen people in a video game arcade stomping on colored lights to the beat of a song like crazy people. That's the basic idea of Dance Dance Revolution -- to tap squares in a specific sequence at faster and faster speeds to keep in the game.

Some clever and also evil inventor thought that would be a good basis for an alarm clock. This little gem requires you to use your fingers to tap out a DDR style sequence in order to turn off the alarm. There is no way I could turn this off on the first try -- or the tenth try for that matter. You can order it on the ThumbsUp site by going here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

GDGT -- Gadget Review Site

Last month I read this New York Times article that described a new site for the review of gadgets called gdgt. Founded by guys that were involved with Gizmodo and Engadget, the new site is different in that all reviews are written by consumers rather than paid writers. I guess that could be good or bad depending on who contributes. Has anyone written any reviews for the site?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Second Strobist Bootcamp Assignment

The second assignment in the Strobist blog's summer bootcamp was food photography. The classic approach for a typical food dish photo is to have the key light coming from the top down using a softbox. I made a softbox quite awhile ago using a shoebox. I lined the inside with aluminum foil, cut a hole in the side just big enough for my flash, and topped it with tracing paper to diffuse the light. It was pretty well for a simple, homemade contraption.

The first photo is of red lentils, brown lentils, and split peas arranged in a bowl (thanks to Dianne) that is sitting on top of a black IKEA cutting mat. I used just a single flash into the softbox that was held pretty close to the subject just above and behind the bowl. I also used a silver reflector just below the camera in order to soften the shadow on the front of the bowl. I like the lighting and the colors.

Lentils and Peas

The second photo is of my favorite vegetarian dish -- a lemony chickpea stirfry. The lighting setup was the same as the photo above. The recipe is from the 101 Cookbooks blog. It contains tofu, kale, chickpeas, the zest and juice from a lemon, and zucchini. The bowl is sitting on a red IKEA cutting mat. I wanted the red to compliment the green of the kale.

Lemony Chickpea Stirfry

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Bandsaw Skills

Thanks to the Random Good Stuff blog, I ran across this YouTube video showing a guy with some crazy skills on the band saw. I'd only have 7 intact fingers left if I tried to do something like this. Check it out!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Strobist Activity

I certainly have a backlog of photo work to describe -- things I've done over the last few months. The Strobist blog has probably had the greatest influence on my photo activities of late. The basic idea of the Strobist group is to get your flash or flashes off the camera to have the light coming in at different angles on the subject. You can use that approach to create interesting effects or enhance natural lighting and balance the overall exposure.

Since I'm new to the Strobist ideas and how to apply the concepts with my equipment, I've been experimenting with non-macro subjects. This summer the Strobist blog is having a lighting bootcamp where assignments are given every several weeks. The intent is to get the basics down by forcing you to try different techniques. The assignments have also been geared to try and help others in some way.

The first bootcamp assignment was to make two headshots that was somehow related to the state of the economy -- and also get a photo folks could use for a resume or website or whatever. One was to be a self portrait and the other had to be a friend. I've always wanted a teaching related photo so that one was easy. I talked Dianne into getting a photo in front of her computer since all her work is computer based.

For my photo below I used three flashes. High and right front I bounced a flash out of an umbrella for the main overhead light. A second flash with a grid came from the left behind my head and was focused on the writing on the blackboard. Finally, front low left there was a third flash to ease the shadow on the right side of my face. I was pretty pleased with the result.

Thinking About Molecules

For Dianne's photo, I first adjusted the exposure settings to get a good exposure on the monitor -- that was in effect my key light for the exposure. The main flash light came from high left bounced out of an umbrella. That light put a huge shadow on her face because of the ball cap. To reduce that shadow, I put a second flash low and right with a grid that was focused on the underside of her cap. If I were to do it again, I would soften that light a bit with a diffuser so there would be a little more of a shadow. But not bad for a first try. I'll describe some of my other Strobist style photos in future posts.

At The Computer

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Roller Derby Bout Recaps

If you are here looking for a recap on the Cincinnati Rollergirl bouts against the Hard Knox Rollergirls, I've moved all my roller derby posts to Go there to check out my impressions of the Schooling of Hard Knox bout and other derby happenings in the area!

Friday, February 06, 2009

100 Things

There are several of these sorts of lists that I've seen circulating lately. I thought I would jump on the bandwagon and post my responses to this list that I saw on the Can You Keep A Secret blog. That blog is written by a Cincinnati area photographer, Sonja McGill. She has some great photos in her posts.

Here are my responses to the list -- I bolded the things I've done and put comments in parentheses. I'm glad I haven't done some of these.

1. Started your own blog (you are here)
2. Slept under the stars

3. Played in a band (saxophone in school bands)
4. Visited Hawaii (duh!)

5. Watched a meteor shower

6. Bathed in a river
7. Been to the Taj Mahal
8. Walked on a glacier in Alaska
9. Caught and held a snake
10. Spoke in front of a big crowd
11. Bungee jumped (but I watched Dianne do it)
12. Had a whirlwind love affair that broke your heart (don't know about whirlwind)
13. Found an arrowhead or fossil
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Rescued an animal
16. Ate sweet breads, glands or tripe (eeewwww!)
17. Seen Mount Rushmore in person
18. Grown your own vegetables

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France

20. Slept on an overnight train
(several times)
21. Had a pillow fight

22. Hiked to base camp on Mt. Everest
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort (lots of these)
25. Watched an animal being born
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Learned a foreign language

28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse

30. Stayed up for more than 24 hours
31. Trained a dog to do cool tricks
32. Been on a cruise (sort of -- day/overnight trip from Greece to Italy)
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community 36. Can drive a stick shift car
37. Won over $1000 in a raffle or lottery (I wish)
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person (been to the top)
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Been serenaded
44. Visited Africa (went to Egypt in college)
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight 46. Broke a bone (unfortunately)
47. Started your own business
48. Quit a job because you were totally unhappy
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the Eiffel Tower

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling (snorkeling in Hawaii)

52. Kissed in the rain passionately
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in

55. Been in a movie (made 'movies' growing up with a neighbor)
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Joined a prayer group
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
62. Gone whale watching
63. Received flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving (this isn't ever happening)
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy (I have a couple)
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar (yes, once -- ONCE! Yuck!)
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the changing of the guards in London
77. Broken something extremely expensive
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book (does writing a thesis count?) 81. Visited the Vatican
82. Got a tattoo
83. Been to a coffee shop in Amsterdam (been there, but didn't get coffee)
84. Seen the aurora borealis in person
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (I guess a fish counts)
88. Had chickenpox (have the marks to prove it)
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury (as an alternate on a vehicular homicide case -- not fun)
91. Met someone famous
(several -- Linus Pauling and Hubert Humphrey are examples)

92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Toured the UN
95. Hiked to Machu Picchu
96. Swam in the Indian Ocean
97. Conversed with someone when neither of you spoke each others language (relates to #32)
98. Dirty danced
99. Been stung by a bee (nope)
100. Acted in a play

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Better Get to Pigall's

Readers of the Cincinnati Enquirer probably read this story that reports Pigall's is closing at the end of February. I was surprised to read that story given that the restaurant just received a 4-star rating in the Mobil travel guide.

Hopefully Jean-Robert will open another spot that will be top notch.

In the process of looking around for that news, I discovered the wine me, dine me blog. It's obviously a blog about places to eat -- but it covers the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area. It is always good to get an opinion about a restaurant. Stop over there to browse the reviews before heading out to eat.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday Flashback

Erika does a lot of Friday Flashback posts on her blog. I don't have the discipline to do that on a regular basis -- and my memory isn't that good. My dad sent some old photos recently that inspired this flashback post.

The first photo is me, just over two years old, sitting on cinder blocks that my dad used to build an addition on to the garage. You have got to love the Minnesota Twins baseball cap. My dad needed the extra space as he ran a bicycle shop and used the addition to store bikes that needed to be assembled. I do remember that part of the garage being loaded with bicycle boxes on occasion.

Me on Blocks

The second photo is of me riding a bicycle in a parade in Randall, Minnesota when I was twelve. It was a fourth of July parade. This wasn't just any bike. My dad spoked the wheels using many different length spokes so that the hubs of the wheels were off center. If you look closely, especially at the front wheel, you can see the hub is off center in the wheel. When you pedaled the bike it bobbed up and down or rocked back and forth depending on whether or not the wheels were in sync. It was quite a sight! The pole on the back held a sign for Dick's Broiler, a local hamburger joint that we stopped at now and then.

Me in a Parade