Will I Ever Take a Good Picture?

My journey trying to take good photos.

Trying to channel Mike Moats and not doing a good job of it.

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Another walk at Hodges on Saturday (9/8/12). It was 74 degrees, breezy, and cloudy when I started. The breeze was nice for keeping the bugs away but if I was going to be taking shots of flowers and or bugs it was going to be a tough day!

I heard what I thought were ducks but were actually geese at the start of the walk. This was the first time that I had seen geese at Hodges this year. Might be the geese are heading south although it seems a bit early. Here is a quick shot taken from the lookout. Can’t say this is one of my best shots today but it does show a few of the geese:

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Canon T3i, EF55-250mm f4.5-f5.6@250mm, 1/80 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200

The next thing I noticed was what looked like a ghost. The picture doesn’t quite capture the scene but you can see how I took a second look. I don’t know why but I thought of the picture “The Scream” by Edvard Munch.

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Canon T3i, EF55-250mm f4.5-f5.6@100mm, 1/15 sec, f/5.0, ISO 400

The last couple of weeks I have noticed that the squirrels have been feeding on pine seeds. The broken up cones are starting to pile up:

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Canon T3i, EF55-250mm f4.5-f5.6@55mm, 1/15 sec, f/4.0, ISO 800

Sometimes you just see the remains of one cone:

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Canon T3i, EF55-250mm f4.5-f5.6@55mm, 1/125 sec, f/5.0, ISO 800

At this time of year a picture or two of mushrooms is mandatory. I have been intrigued by focus stacking so I took a few shots and merged them together in Photoshop. Here is my result:

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Canon T3i, EF100mm f2.8L Macro, 1/250 sec, f/4.0, ISO 400, Stack of 2

I also took a single shot to see if focus stacking looks better.

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Canon T3i, EF100mm f2.8L Macro, 1/160 sec, f/8.0, ISO 800

In this case I like the focus stack version better. Not sure if that is because my other shot is just plan bad. Maybe I needed a bit higher aperture than 8.0.

My next subject was also a mushroom and of a type I don’t remember seeing before. Again I took a single shot version and a focus stack. Here is the focus stack:

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Canon T3i, EF100mm f2.8L Macro, 1/400 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100, Stack of 5

Here is the single shot:

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Canon T3i, EF100mm f2.8L Macro, 1/40 sec, f/7.1, ISO 100

In this case the focus stack version is a bit sharper thru out but I like both shots. I’m not sure I have to use the focus stack method as much as I do but I do think it has its place. Getting a series of shots by focusing by hand is a bit iffy though. A friend of mine has loaded Magic Lantern on his camera. One of the things Magic Lantern does is taking shots for a focus stack. You set it up for the range you want to do (set the near focus point, a far focus point and somehow the number of shots) and then it takes the shots and changes the focus automagically. He has taken a few stacks that have come out really well. I am seriously thinking of loading Magic Lantern myself but so far I haven’t been able to bring myself to do it. Running non-Canon software on the camera worries me. It seems that getting a series of shots that are at set intervals automatically rather than my manual shots taken at random intervals would not only be easier but would result in a better end product.

Now other than taking some closeups what has this got to do with Mike Moats? If you don’t know who MikeM is he is a photographer who specializes in macro photography. Just google him and you can check him out. I’m a long way off from taking pictures like him but if your going to emulate someone might as well be someone who takes great photos! I went to a seminar that he did at the NECCC 2012 conference. It was a great talk and two things I took away was the use of a diffuser and a tripod. My white mushroom shots are my attempt at heeding that advice:

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Canon T3i, EF100mm f2.8L Macro, 1/40 sec, f/7.1, ISO 100

So I have some equipment but I still don’t take an interesting shot. A single mushroom just doesn’t cut it. I have to think about what else I could do to make the photo stand out more. Here is an attempt to put multiple objects into a photo to make if more interesting:

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Canon T3i, EF100mm f2.8L Macro, 1/30 sec, f/7.1, ISO 100

What a failure. I have a lot to learn.

If your interested in Macro photography Mike has an ebook called Creating Art with Macro. I think I paid $10.00 at the conference for it. Well worth the money especially if your just starting out with macro. I’m sure a google will find you the book if your interested. While heading back I saw a leaf from the Jurassic period:

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Canon T3i, EF100mm f2.8L Macro, 1/30 sec, f/7.1, ISO 100

This thing was big! I took a picture with the ColorChecker Passport for reference. The Passport is about 4.8 inches long (there is a 10mm measurement on the side if you can’t handle approximations):

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Canon T3i, EF100mm f2.8L Macro, 1/20 sec, f/7.1, ISO 100

That would make the leaf almost 10 inches long. Anyone know if you can use the ruler in Photoshop CS6 to find the true length of something? The tool is saying the passport is 6.7 inches long which is wrong. I’m thinking the ruler tells me how big the area I selected would be in inches if I printed it at whatever resolution I have set up. I don’t know of a way to use the ruler on the side of the Passport to set up the scale in Photoshop.  Regardless of my inability to measure the leaf in Photoshop it is still one big oak leaf.

I started and finished my walk at the base of the dam and I took a couple of panoramic shots. I took one looking over the field below the dam (dam is to the left of the picture):

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Canon T3i, EF18-135mm f3.5-f5.6@55mm, 1/160 sec, f/7.1, ISO 100

Then I went on top of the dam and took another panoramic:

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Canon T3i, EF18-135mm f3.5-f5.6@55mm, 1/200 sec, f/7.1, ISO 100

In the first panoramic I had the camera in landscape mode. In the second I had it in portrait mode. I forget where I read to do the panoramic in portrait mode but I like it.  The extra height makes the picture look better (less like a panoramic!).

Well that’s it for this walk. Until my next photo shoot!

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