Tag Archives: photography

We Live in A Tron Universe: NASA, Long Exposure Photography and the Int’l Space Station

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I’m a big fan of long exposure photography (and time lapse, and slow motion, etc. etc. :-). I’ve done some star trail photography from the top of Haleakala in Maui. 10,000 feet up on a rock in the middle of the Pacific is a good place for it! So I was pretty blown away by some of the images released by NASA that were shot by astronaut Don Pettit.

Long Exposure photos of star trails from spaceI think these have been up for a while, they were shot in 2012, but it’s the first I’ve seen of them. Absolutely beautiful imagery. Although they make the universe look like the TRON universe. These were all shot with 30 second exposures and then combined together, as Don says:

“My star trail images are made by taking a time exposure of about 10 to 15 minutes. However, with modern digital cameras, 30 seconds is about the longest exposure possible, due to electronic detector noise effectively snowing out the image. To achieve the longer exposures I do what many amateur astronomers do. I take multiple 30-second exposures, then ‘stack’ them using imaging software, thus producing the longer exposure.”

You can see the entire 36 photo set on Flickr.

Having done long exposures myself that were 10 or 15 minutes, the images are noisy but not that bad. I wonder if being in space causes the camera sensors to pick up more noise. If anyone knows, feel free to leave a comment.

If you’re stuck doing star photography from good ol’ planet Earth, then noise reduction software helps. You also want to shoot RAW as most RAW software will automatically remove dead pixels. These are particularly annoying with astro photography.

But the space station photos are really amazing, so head over to Flickr and check them out! These are not totally public domain, they can’t be used commercially, but you can download the high res versions of the photos and print or share them as you see fit. Here’s a few more to wet your appetite:

The shots were created in Photoshop by combining multiple 30 second exposure photosAmazing TRON like photos taken from the space station

Tips on Photographing Sports – Sneaking a Lens In and Other Stories

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I love photographing sports. It’s a lot like shooting wildlife/Humpback Whales in many ways. It requires a lot of patience and quick shooting skills.

Unfortunately, I’m usually limited to shooting from the stands. So this makes the process a little harder but if you can get good seats you can make it work. As it happens, I recently got third row seats to the Golden State Warriors game against the Lakers. So here are a few tips for getting great shots if you can’t actually get a press pass.

Depth of field is always important when photographing sports

The first thing you need to check is how long of a lens you’re allowed to bring in. In this case it was a 3″ or less. So that’s what needs to be attached to the camera. (see the end of the article for some ‘other’ suggestions)

I ended up using a 100mm f2 lens for these shots, which is exactly 3″. You want as fast of a lens as possible. You’re not going to be able to use a flash, so you’re reliant on the stadium lighting which isn’t particularly bright. f2.8 is really a minimum and even then you’ll have the ISO higher than you’d like. Like wildlife, the action moves fast, so the wider the aperture, the faster the shutter speed you’ll have, and the sharper the shots will be.

The minimum shutter speed is probably about 1/500 and you’d like 1/2000 or higher. Hence the need for a f2 or f2.8 lens. Otherwise, the action shots, where you really want it to be sharp, will be a bit blurry.

Seat placement matters. Obviously you want to be as close as possible, but you also want to be at the ends of the court/field. That’s where most of the action happens. Center court seats may be great for watching the game, but behind the goal seats get you up close and personal for half of the action. Much better for photography and hence one of the reasons the press photogs are on the baseline.

Photographing basketball is best from the baseline

What if you’re not happy with a 3″ lens? Well, you COULD give a friend a larger lens and let them try and smuggle it in. Since it’s not attached to the camera, most of the security people don’t recognize it as a camera lens. Just say it’s, you know, a binocular or something (monocular? ;-). Usually it works, worst thing that happens is you have to go back to the car and store it. You’re not trying to break the rules, you’re, uh, helping train the security staff.

If you do manage to get a larger lens in, don’t expect to be able to use it much. One of the ushers will eventually spot it (especially if it’s a big, white, L Canon lens) and call you on it. You’ll have to swap it for the other lens (or risk getting kicked out). Wait until the game is well underway before trying to use it.

Of course, the basic tips apply… Shoot RAW, make sure you have a large, empty memory card(s), a fully charged battery, don’t spill beer on the camera, etc., etc. But the critical component is getting close to  the end of the court and having a very fast shutter speed (which usually means a very wide aperture).

Shooting RAW is soooo critical. It’ll give you some flexibility to adjust the exposure and do some sharpening. Since you’ll probably have a relatively high ISO, the noise reduction capabilities are important as well. Always shoot RAW.

If you’re a photographer that loves sports, it is definitely fun to get good seats and work on your sports shooting skills. Can be a bit expensive to do on a regular basis though!

Fast Shutter Speed and very wide aperture is critical for shooting sports

 

Tips on Photographing Whales – Underwater and Above

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I’ve spent the last 7 years going out to Maui during the winter to photograph whales. Hawaii is the migration destination of the North Pacific Humpback Whales. Over the course of four months, it’s estimated that about 12,000 whales migrate from Alaska to Hawaii. During the peak months Jan 15 – March 15th or so, there’s probably about 6000+ whales around Hawaii. This creates a really awesome opportunity to photograph them as they are EVERYWHERE.

Many of the boats that go out are small, zodiac type boats. This allows you to hang over the side if you’ve got an underwater camera. Very cool if they come up to the boat, as this picture shows! (you can’t dive with them as it’s a national sanctuary for the whales)

A photographer can hang over the side of a boat to get underwater photos of the humpback whales.

The result is shots like this below the water:

Photographing whales underwater is usually done hanging over the side of a boat.

Or above the water:

A beautiful shot of a whale breaching in Maui

So ya wanna be whale paparazzi? Here are a few tips on getting great photographs of whales:

1- Patience: Most of the time the whales are below the water surface and out of range of an underwater camera. There’s a lot of ‘whale waiting’ going on. It may take quite a few trips before a whale gets close enough to shoot underwater. To capture the above the water activity you really need to pay attention. Frequently it happens very quickly and is over before you can even get your camera up if you’re distracted by talking or looking at photos on your camera. Stay present and focused.

2- Aperture Priority mode: Both above and below the water I set the camera to Aperture Priority and set the lowest aperture I can, getting it as wide open as possible. You want as fast of a shutter speed as possible (for 50 ton animals they can move FAST!) and setting it to the widest aperture will do that. You also want that nice depth of field a low fstop will give you.

3- AutoFocus: You have to have autofocus turned on. The action happens to fast to manually focus. Also, use AF points that are calculated in both the horizontal and vertical axes. Not all AF points are created the same.

4- Lenses: For above the water, the 100mm-400mm is a good lens for the distance the boats usually tend to stay from the whales. It’s not great if the whales come right up to the boat… but that’ s when you bust out your underwater camera with a very wide angle or fisheye lens. With underwater photography, at least in Maui, you can only photograph the whales if they come close to the boat.  You’re not going to be able to operate a zoom lens hanging over the side of a boat. So set a pretty wide focal length when you put it into the housing. I’ve got a 12-17mm Tokina fisheye and usually set it to about 14mm. This means the whale has to be within about 10 feet of the boat to get a good shot. But due to underwater visibility, that’s pretty much the case no matter what lens you have on the camera.

5- Burst Shooting: Make sure you set the camera to burst mode. The more photos the camera can take when you press and hold the shutter button the better.

6- Luck: You need a lot of luck. But part of luck is being prepared to take advantage of the opportunities that come up. So if you get a whale that’s breaching over and over, stay focused with your camera ready because you don’t know where he’s going to come up. Or if a whale comes up to the boat make sure that underwater camera is ready with a fully charged battery, big, empty flash card and you know how to use the controls on the housing. (trust me… most of these tips were learned the hard way)

Many whale watches will mostly be comprised of ‘whale waiting’. But if you stay present and your gear is set up correctly, you’ll be in great shape to capture those moments when you’re almost touched by a whale!

Whale photographed that was just out of arms reach. The whale is just about touching the camera.

Don’t be a Grumpy, Old Photographer

I recently was chatting with a photographer who pretty much blamed all the ills of the industry on Moms in hot pants. Yep, that’s why he no longer goes to WPPI and why the photo business isn’t what it used to be. Moms in hot pants with their toy DSLRs undercutting real photographers. What IS the world coming to?

(ok, so this is from the Sony advert that’s very funny. See post from last week.)

I think mostly what he’s upset about is a new generation of photographers. I suspect when he got out of school there were a bunch of old photographers bitching about all these kids with their Canon AE-1s running around in bell bottoms pretending to be photographers and working for peanuts.

But change happens. A new generation comes along, new ways of marketing appear, and new cameras are released. Just because you think Twitter is the dumbest thing since the Pet Rock, doesn’t mean you don’t have to use it. (At least Twitter doesn’t limit who’s sees your posts like Facebook does now) Marketing has always been critical in photography and it’s even more so now. It’s just the way of doing it has changed somewhat. It requires a little more consistent engagement… like this blog. Which you’ll note I’m not writing on Facebook. I’ll post the link on FB, but because FB limits who sees it, it much more effective to do the writing here and link to it from the various interwebs.

If a few Moms with Canon Rebels are on the verge of sending you out of business, I don’t think the issue is the Moms. Hell, hire one of them. If you can get in with the Mom Mafia you’re golden!

And besides, given the amount of tradeshows I go to that are nothing but geeky guys, I’m having a hard time seeing what the complaint is about a little gender diversity (hot pants or no). But it’s no secret why you’re seeing a lot of women in photography… they tend to communicate better than men, have more emotional intelligence, and are excellent shooters. I mean, who do you think a bride is going to want to shoot her wedding? The energetic gal in hot pants or the grumpy, old guy? It’s all about being a good communicator these days, whether it’s on social media or during a shoot. Don’t be the grumpy, old guy.

Cloud Services – The Ugly

So I don’t get it when people freak out about cloud services going down. It’s the internet. Outages happen. Actually, they happen to any electronics.

Should they happen frequently? No, of course not. But Google Talk going down for half a day, Twitter, Salesforce, and Amazon all having recent outages have made it clear that you can’t trust the cloud 100%. Which is only to say that you should have backup plans in the event the cloud service you’re using or your internet connection go down temporarily (hello? Comcast? Anyone home?).

Furthermore, you should make sure all the data on your cloud service is backed up locally in the event the cloud service you’re using goes down permanently. This is a real risk if you’re using any cloud service that isn’t Amazon or Google. And even then, I’ve heard of Google deleting accounts by mistake in such a way they were unrecoverable. I back up all my Google docs once a week and download a copy of important documents as soon as I finish them.

While I have photos stored online, the originals are safely on a RAID 1 hard drive. I’ve written about the failure of Digital Railroad before, which was a photo storage site that went bellyup and gave users about 12 hours to download their photos before shutting off the servers. When startups go down, they go down hard since they usually try to hold on until the last dollar runs out. When the money runs out, you can’t pay for bandwidth fees, and then darkness comes (and the ice weasels. Beware the ice weasels).

So don’t get me wrong, I think the cloud is great. But as with anything, it’s good to know the limitations and be able to work around them.

Joy of Photography

One of the great things about running DA is that it gives me an excuse to buy fancy camera equipment and play with it. The latest subject I’m infatuated with is stars. No, I haven’t joined the paparazzi. I’m talking about the stars you can see when you’re 10,000 feet up on a rock in the middle of the Pacific ( the Haleakala volcano in Maui).

(c) 2012 Jim Tierney

Photography is absolutely amazing. It really forces you to be present in the place you’re at and the moment you’re there.

Continue reading Joy of Photography

Can you trust the cloud with your photos?

The answer, in a nutshell, is no.

I’ve written about this before… when Digital Railroad failed a couple years ago and gave photographers 24 hours to download their photos, it should have been a big wake up call for photographers that these services can’t be trusted as archives (at least, not without offline backups as well). Now, maybe they can’t even be trusted as temporary storage. With tech companies it’s all good… until it’s not. Then the CEO announces everyone is laid off and the servers are shut down. I’ve been part of startups where this has happened. As Jason Perlow points out in an excellent blog post ‘Flickr: Too big to fail?’, Flickr is not too big to fail.

AND even if it doesn’t fail, that doesn’t mean your account won’t be accidentally deleted and since Flickr doesn’t have backups of your data, there goes all your photos. Which means all the links on your blog or web site that point to Flickr (or Vimeo or…) get broken requiring a lot of time and aggravation fixing your site. Assuming you have all those photos backup in a single place and you don’t have to go rooting around for the particular photos/videos you uploaded… which would involve even more time.

I’ll point out that I think these sites are great usually. I use them, particularly vimeo. However, it’s important to know what will happen if things go wrong and to know what you’re in for.

Anyways, give Jason’s blog a read… it brings up some good questions and concerns.

Toonit! Photo 2.6 – 64bit/CS5 Update Released!

We are so happy and excited to announce the releasing of Toonit! Photo 2.6 which is compatible with 64bit and CS5! The best part about it; it’s FREE if you already own the product. Go to this Update Page to get the instructions on how to do a fresh install. If you haven’t purchased Toonit! you can now get it for $89 until July 18!

After Toonit! Photo has been applied.

(After Toonit! Photo has been applied)

Original image before Toonit! Photo is applied.

(Original image before Toonit! Photo has been applied)

This is just the first in many more 64bit and CS5 updates to come. Here’s are run down of when you can expect these updates for our other products:

Continue reading Toonit! Photo 2.6 – 64bit/CS5 Update Released!

William Branson III – Portrait Artist

I recently spoke with William Branson III surrounding our exciting new product release of Beauty Box Photo and were reminded of how much I love his artwork. He is an amazing Portrait Artist and his images really push the limits of photograph vs painting.  Check out his work here: http://www.wbranson.com/

(Both images © William Branson III)

Pencil vs Camera and ToonIt!

I came across this great photo series on Flickr, entitled Pencil vs Camera by artist Ben Heine. It is always interesting to see how different mediums can be combined, especially when it comes from reality (photos) and imagination (drawings). Ben used a traditional method to do his sketches. All the graphic elements shown come from his own stock/production. He drew the sketches, took the photos, and edited them.

©Ben Heine

©Ben Heine

Here at Digital Anarchy we have always been a big supporter of how illustrations can play a role within photography. Our plugin ToonIt! Photo lets you create cartoon effects, like shading and lines, from your own photographic images. Learn more about ToonIt! Photo here.

I had a few extra moments to play with the Pencil vs Camera concept using my own images and ToonIt! Photo. I shot these photos in Santa Cruz, CA on a very overcast day about two years ago. I would have liked to have a more pleasing sky but you can’t always get what you want, right? Here are the results:

Continue reading Pencil vs Camera and ToonIt!

Skin smoothing for kittens?

Yesterday Digital Anarchy did a photoshoot for our Beauty Box product for video skin retouching. Well actually for our Beauty Box PRODUCTS, since we have related product coming out really soon. (Stay tuned for that exciting news!)

We had two terrific models participating in the shoot, which took place at Jim’s apartment. Towards the end of the day, his fluffy cat got curious and investigated the scene. I don’t think that cats need skin retouching but maybe we will come out with a fur smoothing product.

Molotov Cupcake got a little indignant when we booted her from the ‘set’. The model got a little mock indignant when Jim proclaimed that the cutest shot all day was of the cat!

Continue reading Skin smoothing for kittens?

What Material To Use For Greenscreen?

When we first launched Primatte, we tested a variety of ‘greenscreen’ backgrounds to determine what to recommend. Paper backgrounds turned out to be worst and we had the best luck with a velcro/foam material.

Well… apparently not all paper backgrounds are made equal!

I don’t remember who made the paper background we initially tested. But it was awful. Very reflective and prone to hot spots. We figured all paper would have the same problems. After listening to a talk by another company that does greenscreen software, I decided to revisit this and give Savage Paper’s ‘tech green #46’ a try.

So how’d it fare vs. the foam materail we’ve been recommending since day 1?

Continue reading What Material To Use For Greenscreen?

I hate HDR

Ok, well I only hate one common use of it. That surreal, oversaturated look that seems to be the first thing everyone does when they try the technique. You don’t even need to use HDR, there’s a photoshop plugin for it and you can use Camera Raw to pull it off. Here’s an example of the style:

HDR gone bad

HDR Gone Bad

It’s a novelty look and I’m over it. It was cool for a very short time, then everyone decided they wanted to have surreal images. It’s not that hard of a look to achieve, so it’s not that impressive. Get over it.  :-) I much prefer to use HDR for what it was meant for… which is giving a slightly wider dynamic range to create a shot that has similar contrast and color range to what your eye actually sees. No one has seen colors like the photo above has. Alright, well, yeah I’ve taken mushrooms too, so maybe then… but not normally.

The better use for HDR…

Continue reading I hate HDR

Cheerleading practice with Shawn Wright

Digital Anarchy recently added a great photographer to our Primatte Chromakey gallery. His name is Shawn Wright and he runs Wright Studios out of Indiana, USA with his wife Betsy.

Shawn is a photographer of all talents and trades. Not only does he specialize in many subjects — high school seniors, industrial product shots and sports teams, to name a few — but he also runs photography seminars. More info on his company site, www.wrightstudio.us.

073009_shwright_prim
Continue reading Cheerleading practice with Shawn Wright

Celebrities of LENNON the Photographer, Part II.

LENNON the Photographer has given us terrific celebrity images that he creates, in part, with our Adobe Photoshop greenscreen plugin, Primatte Chromakey. A year after we first talked to LENNON about his work, he contacted us with more high-profile photography. There is a **gorgeous** shot of Gilles Marini from Dancing with the Stars, as shown below.

072709_lennon_gillesmarini

Something that I really enjoy about LENNON is that his personality seems as colorful as the celebrities that he photographs. That’s why his first name is always written in CAPS; very Hollywood, yes?

Continue reading Celebrities of LENNON the Photographer, Part II.

Photowalkin’ (and camera lenses)

Yesterday, I joined Photoshop product manager Bryan O’neil-Hughes for his Photowalk. This was part of the effort by NAPP to get folks out and taking pictures. There were photowalks all over the nation because of this.

It’s a pretty cool idea and was great fun. Adobe rockstar Julieanne Kost joined us along with a few other Adobe folks. The walk itself was fairly short in length and mostly went a few blocks around the Adobe campus in San Jose. You’d be surprised at how long it takes for 50 photographers to go a few blocks. In any event, this led to many photos of the Adobe building (there also seemed to be a good deal of photographers taking pictures of photographers).

Adobe through the leaves

When you go on walks like this, it’s interesting what your choice of lens does to your photos.

Continue reading Photowalkin’ (and camera lenses)

At long last, Steven Parke.

Steven Parke is an amazing photographer and artist who Digital Anarchy became friendly with about two years ago. It’s taken almost that long for us to show his amazing work in our online gallery. Busy lives.

Steven is using Flickr as his gallery medium these days, though he used to show a wider expanse of his work in a gorgeous website called Imagecarnival.com. Seems like he has his creative fingers in lots of stuff including commercial portraits, musician photos, CD covers. If you click around his People set, you will see a lot of interesting and even recognizable people. Steven is quite humble about his accomplishments. One of my favorite photos in this set is the lead singer for a band called MILKSHAKE!.

041709-parke-milkshake Continue reading At long last, Steven Parke.

Inspiration

In Photo Techniques magazine there was this quote attributed to Chuck Close:

“Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work.”

This sort of misses the point of inspiration. Obviously, you can’t stare at clouds all day, but that doesn’t mean you have to have your nose to the grindstone continuously either. I think a lot of inspiration is simply keeping your mind open and aware of what’s going on as you move through life. Inspiration doesn’t need to be lightning bolts and explotions. It can be simple things like ice cubes. Here’s a recent example of some macro shots I did:

macro_ice Continue reading Inspiration

My favorite photography ‘gear’ site

There are a lot of review sites out there. http://www.dpreview.com is a good one… however, my favorite is http://www.slrgear.com.

In truth, they really only do lenses, but it’s an incredible site. The most in depth reviews of lenses you can imagine, including an interactive 3D graph showing you the focus profiles at any given aperture/focal length. It’s hugely entertaining to play around with the 3D graph and see where the sweet spot is for the lens and where it starts to really break down… as far as sharpness and vignetting goes.

For example, I’ve got the Canon 50mm 1.4 lens. You can see looking at the SLRgear graph that at 1.4, the lens really isn’t that great. But once you get to 2.0 and especially 2.8, it’s a great lens. It’s a good thing to check if you want to get the most out of your lenses.

Here’s a screenshot:

Screenshot of slrgear.com's 3D Blur index for camera lenses (Tamron 70-200mm in this case)
Screenshot of slrgear.com's 3D Blur index for camera lenses (Tamron 70-200mm in this case)

Photos above & below water

I love digital artwork — and it’s what pays the bills! — but it’s always wonderful to seek out non-digital artwork. Through Digital Anarchy, I look at a lot of artist websites and portfolios. They trickle in as email addresses attached to sales receipts or support requests, and I often click through to look at the URL.

This week I stumbled upon photos of some very unique and beautiful artwork. I don’t quite recall what series of clicks brought me here, but the artist is Jason de Caires Taylor and the site is www.underwatersculpture.com.

Images from the site:

Continue reading Photos above & below water

Making 3D look real

So I just got a calendar from Maxon (makers of Cinema 4D). Some really nice examples of 3D art using their software. As I looked at the images, I was struck by how some were really difficult to tell from photographs and some were obviously 3D. The difference, I think, is depth of field.

Depth of field was really noticable. On too many 3D images the DOF is infinite. Meaning that buildings 300 yards away are in razor sharp focus and you can see every detail on the bricks that make up the building. While the artist may want you to appreciate all the hard work he put in adding fine details… I don’t want to see them. I want them blurred out.

Continue reading Making 3D look real

Polaroid is no longer instant.

I read today on the Studio Photography blog that Polaroid will stop producing its instant film. The article rounds up some interesting vignettes about Polaroid aficionados and why they love the medium, but here’s the meat of the news:

“Sixty years after Polaroid introduced its first instant camera, the company’s iconic film is disappearing from stores. Although Polaroid says the film should be available into 2009, this is the final month of its last production year. Eclipsed by digital photography, Polaroid’s white-bordered prints — and the anticipation they created as their ghostly images gradually came into view — will soon be things of the past.”

This discontinuation feels quite sad. Although I don’t use Polaroid anymore, I remember years back when my friends and I would take Polaroids of each other at parties and tape the photos to a window or sliding glass door. By the end of the evening, we’d have a timeline of the party and all of the silly and sweet things that had occurred.

hmm, and perhaps my statement multiplied by 1 or 3 million is why the instant film is being discontinued. Memories don’t always translate into dollars. Also, while Polariod is nostalgic to me and perhaps the generation above me, it’s not to someone in their teens or 20’s.

Seems to me that if Polaroid did some marketing and made that medium feel relevant, then it could still sell okay. But I guess they’re a big company and it’s just not worthwhile to their bottom line.

regards -Debbie