Saturday, September 24, 2011

Creating a better family portrait, including pets.

When trying to get the perfect group shot that also includes pets, it's not always easy to get everyone to look at the camera lens at the same time. Sometimes the solution is to take multiple pictures, and use Photoship to blend 2 or more images together to create a more desirable end result.

Here is an example of Chris, Maura, and Mimi looking great, and eyes directed towards the camera. However, the 2 bigger dogs, Lex and Lee, are focused on the stairs. Even when you are using treats to get the dogs attention, it doesn't always guarantee that they will look at the same time.

However, in this image, everyone except for Mimi is looking at the camera. Solution, take the best parts of both images to create a new picture.

After a little masking, rotation, cropping, and other miscellaneous post-processing, you get a decent family portrait with attention focused on the camera.

Hoover Dam HDR

One of the biggest problems I face when traveling is trying to decide what gear to bring. I've gone on trips where I take way too much gear, but then, you never want to be without something you need. On me most recent trip to Las Vegas, I decided to try and pack light. For me, this mean one dSLR camera and my Sony NEX-5. The only tripod I brought was the Joby Focus GorrillaPod, which is small and portable. Although it would have been very nice to have a full sized tripod to use for HDR or Panoramic shots, I was able to get by with the flexible Joby.

I had been to the Hoover Dam pre-9/11, but had never taken the tour. It's amazing how much they have changed to increase the security in and around the dam. I took my wide angle zoom and a fisheye with me to the dam and the new bypass bridge. Using Photomatrix to merge an average of 6 exposures, I create these HDR images.

Fisheye from the center of the top of the Hoover Dam looking at the new Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge over the Colorado river.

The intake towers above the Dam show the low water levels from Lake Mead, which are currently 50 feet below normal levels.

The new Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge (Colorado River Bridge) casts a great Shadow on the landscape above the Hoover Dam. The new bridge makes the dam look small, but gives a great aerial view from the pedestrian walkway.

Civil War Days - Lake Villa

I drive by the Lehmann Mansion everyday on my way to work, and have noticed the past few years advertisements for the Civil War days around the September time frame. This year, I finally had the day off and time to go attend the event. It was overcast and rainy, so I decided to try some aerial shots from my new Pole Aerial Photography rig. I had to wait it out under some trees during the heaviest rain, but otherwise the drizzle wasn't enough to keep me from capturing the fun.

In order to give the images an antique look and feel, I added a faux-tilt shift effect in photoshop, and used the Antique Greyscale preset within Adobe Lightroom. A few more minor teaks, and I think it gave the images a "historic" feel to them. I'd like to be able to capture the event in the future with my other cameras, and avoid the rain. Here are some of my favorites.

Honest Abraham Lincoln was also willing to give me a presidential pose to capture from my camera on the pole.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Photoshop Plugin: AKVIS Sketch

Sometimes when I get the Photoshop itch, I like to try out new actions or plug-ins. One that caught my eye was a set from AKVIS, specifically the Sketch plug-in. I've used other sketch plug-ins in the past, and they all have their merits. I was really surprised at how much I liked the output of the AKVIS software. Here are a few examples from my post-processing session tonight.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Lafayette State Park HDR

Experienced a fantastic sunset on the western shore of a peninsula in Michigan's Upper Peninsula overlooking Big Bay De Noc on Lake Michigan. Each of these images is a collection of 6 different pictures merged together using Photomatrix Pro.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Best way to capture photos while Kiteboarding, from the Kite!

The GoPro HD Hero cameras gives sports enthusiasts an incredible method for capturing images or video footage. However, you need to have different perspectives to make your video or images stand out. For Kiteboarding, there are many different methods for attaching the GoPro POV camera, including helmet cam, chest camera, surf pro attachment, seat post attachment on bar, and also Kite Hero line attachment. However, I think the best perceptiveness is attaching the camera directly to the kite looking down at the rider.

Using the catamaran as a launch point, here is the GoPro connected to a Liquid Force 16m kite looking down at the rider.

Originally, I tried using the Helmet strap attachment with some ball bungies to attach the camera to the kite strut. This worked, but was not optimal. I then discovered that using the GoPro wrist housing was the easiest and most secure way to attach the camera to a strut. As a safety measure, I also use a safety tether line as a backup in case the housing came loose.

Depending on the the kite, the wrist housing may not fit on the center strut. This is an example of the GoPro on the outside strut of a 9m kite.

You must ensure that you aim the camera the way you want. In this example, the camera once launched was aimed to high towards the horizon. Most of the images from this set have the rider on the edge of the photo, or not at all. If you have time, it's also great to use the intervelometer for part of the session, and then turn on video for a while. I find that the r3 setting works best as you can slow the video down for a smooth output.

In all my tests of attaching a camera to a kiteboarding kite, I've put it close to the leading edge. In the future, I'd like to try it attached to the strut furthest away from the leading edge. Also, don't forget to try this while snowkiting!

Animoto: Door County 2011!

Here is a sample of Animoto's newest theme, Watercolor Seashore, using images and video from our recent trip to Door County, Wisconsin. All of the video clips were captured using a GoPro HD Hero POV camera.

Cana Lighthouse Kite Aerial Photography

On a breezy and cloudy day, we ventured over to the eastern shores of Door County for a visit to Cana Island near Bailey's Harbor, and the Cana Island Lighthouse. After climbing the stairs to the top, I knew that I needed to get my KAP gear out and capture the Lighthouse from my kite. The wind was steady enough to use the Flowform 16 and attach 2 cameras. The GoPro rig was stationary, while the Sony NEX-5 used my AutoKAP rig. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy and dreary day, but was till able to capture some great aerial shots of the lighthouse and Cana Island.

Looking back on Door County across the causeway.

Door County Flowers

During our trip to Door County, we stayed at the Homestead Suites in Fish Creek. Directly outside of the main entrance was a beautiful flower bed that I knew I would have to capture before I left. There were butterflies and bumblebees hovering around the blooms. Using my 50mm prime lens give me the ability to use a low f stop and create a nice blurred background and focus in on specific flowers or insects. The 50mm Prime is my favorite lens.

1/320 sec @ f1.6 with Canon 5D Mark II using 50mm lens

1/400 sec @ f/2.0 on Canon 5D Mark II with 50 mm lens.

1/250 sec @ f/1.8 on Canon 5D Mark II with 50 mm lens.

Eagle Bluff Pole Aerial Photography

After seeing the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse when riding bikes through the Peninsula State Park in Door County, I knew that I needed to go back and take some low level aerial images with my carp pole. When I walked up to the rear of the facility, there was a group of people enjoying the view and the sunset, and taking images with an x-Shot extendable pole made for point and shoot cameras. I think they were impressed with the 30 foot carp pole, and I even let them put their camera on the top of my pole rig. The Eagle Bluff Light was a spot that I visited 3 times during my visit to Door County, as it's a very picturesque spot.

You can see the shadow of the carp pole in this image.

Guarding Green Bay, the Eagle Bluff Light is on the western edge of Door County on Lake Michigan.

Eagle Bluff Star Trails

In a recent trip to Door County, I was presented with an opportunity to get some star trails pictures at the Eagle Bluff Light, which is in the Peninsula State Park on a clear night. There was little light pollution, and the number of stars was amazing. Using 30 second exposures stacked together with star trails software, here are the results.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

DIY Photography Blogs

m2 Photography has been recognized by the Online Photography Schools as a top 50 blog for Do-it-yourself photography projects. Check out some of the other innovative blogs and projects through their site.