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Focus stacking in Photoshop people!

small <rant>, was using Edge, the new browser in Win 10 and everytime I'd go to youtube to grab the link to insert here, it would blow away my post.  First time I thought it was a glitch, second time I was just dumb and did it again.  So now back on Chrome < \end rant>

So let's do this!  Focus stacking...what is it?  In a nutshell, which most things are, is this: Taking multiple images of a scene at different focus areas using manual focus and using Photoshop to blend them together to one final image.  How to do this?  Great question.

The setup is easy.  Put the camera on a tripod and focus on the closest item in the shot, your subject.  Then just adjust the focus a little farther out on each shot, turning the focus ring and taking shots until you get to the end of the focus limiter.  (infinity mark)

Can you take as many shots as you want?  Of course.  Can you use any f stop? sure, for this I used f/1.8.  Shutter speed and ISO are irrelevant but if you need a starting point I was at ISO 50 on the sony a7rii and 55 1.8 Zeiss lens using the Joby Gorilla Pod as my tripod.  It's great for getting those close to the ground shots.  The mode on my camera was aperture priority so shutter speed varied a little.  

I took 7 shots to compose this focus stack, and the tutorial is in the video below.  The final image is posted just below the video to see exactly how this turns out.  Also a gallery of the original images for reference is embedded as well.  

Final image - 7 image composite


Austin Dog Rescue

Hey everyone, hope you had an awesome weekend.  I started mine out by volunteering for my favorite dog rescue, Austin Dog Rescue.  It's a wonderful group of people helping out pups around central Texas.  It's not just "Austin" per se, as I see them moving around to Wimberley, Bastrop, Georgetown, and even Lakeway area.  It's a very tight group of people who help dogs get back to health, find owners, promote awareness, and other wonderful things too. 

I created a page to dedicate the photography that I do for this group.  I like to do the shots and edit them for the group to help promote the puppies on the site.  The first images they see are the ones that will spark interest in new owners and I'm excited to do this for the group.

The most recent photos I take will be on the page and you can hit the link here.

I hope you enjoy them.  I put them on social media as well so please follow me there if you like to see the latest.   Volunteer work

twitter.com/codyashphoto

Instagram.com/cody_ash

Inspiration Tuesday - Beaches

This weekend I'm heading to the coast for some R&R and I thought I'd curate 3 great images to get me in the mood for shooting.  I'll be shooting some family lifestyle pics as well as landscapes.  I'm excited to get out of town for a couple days and away from the grind.  Here are this weeks images, enjoy!

Legzira Arches by Tony Yong on 500px.com

This first image just popped off the page.  Great shot at sunset with the low sun making distinct reds and oranges pop out of the rocks.  It's got a gritty texture to the foreground while keeping a softness to the sky and waves. 

O by Cristian Todea on 500px.com

This second image is a fantastic portrait.  I love once again the setting at sundown with all the oranges and yellows backlighting her hair.  She has a great top with the pendant glowing and sharp.  Her look is demure and mysterious.  I enjoy the sun flare in this image.  I've been known to incorporate that effect as well and find that it doesn't take away from the image. 

re....magic by Marco Petracci on 500px.com

The final image is a stunning surfing silhouette.  I'm a sucker for these shots.  I love the bright burning sun behind and the crisp detail on the waves and the surfer.  The photographer caught this at the peak of the action.  We are left wondering "did he fall?", "did he ride this one out?".  Very engaging shot. 

Said goodbye to an old friend

The first camera you really sink your teeth into is the hardest to let go.  Some readers may know I've been testing the Sony E mount series for a few months now.  I immediately fell in love with the size and weight of the camera, yet keeping the 35mm sensor.  So I kept looking for those projects where I'd go "Oh, I need the Nikon for that job"...days went by.  Weeks, now months.

The lucky young man on craigslist who inquired about it over the weekend walked away with it and 2 of the best lenses I had. 

Nikon D610 full frame 35mm sensor with 24.3 megapixels

The two lenses were the 85mm 1.8D and the 50mm 1.4G.  I bought the 85 first and the first picture I put on facebook got so much attention.  I hadn't shot at wide apertures with any camera before.  The picture was very silly, my wife holding our hairless dog with a toy in his mouth.  But it was so sharp and the falloff and bokeh were amazing.  I hope this kid loves it like I did.  The 50mm was a solid contender as well.  Sitting 1/3 stop faster at 1.4, I felt it was not very sharp until around f2 or 2.2.  That being said, you lose a little when you have to stop down a lens to effectively make it sharp, losing the edge of buying a faster lens.  (faster i.e. lower f stop or more light hitting the sensor)

Now on to the exciting news, I'm getting a new camera!!  The a7r II is out and I've had it on order for a couple months anxiously awaiting the ship date.  I've been watching the shipments follow the sun and with great excitement the US finally has dates!  Like..yesterday.  So...I may get batch #2 or 3 from B&H but it's going to ship soon.  Some Best Buy stores have them already and are selling out quick.  I may end up going to get it so I can use for my beach trip next week.

Sony a7R ii


Brian Smith has been posting some great images and new features on his blog.  He's one of the best sources when it comes to all things Sony.  Brian Matiash has been testing it out as well as the new highly acclaimed Batis lenses. He took the 25/2 to Iceland recently. 

Below are the product highlights: (Courtesy of B&H Photo)

Product Highlights

  • 42 MP Full-Frame Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor
  • BIONZ X Image Processor
  • Internal UHD 4K Video & S-Log2 Gamma
  • 5-Axis SteadyShot INSIDE Stabilization
  • 399 Phase-Detect AF Points & 5 fps Burst
  • 0.5" 2.36M-Dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder EVF
  • 3.0" 1,228.8k-Dot Tilting LCD Monitor
  • ISO 102,400 and Silent Shutter Mode
  • Durable Reduced-Vibration Shutter Design
  • Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC

The speed of the autofocus has been significantly increased.  5 axis stabilization in body means that you can use manual lenses or non optical stabilized ones and get up to 4.5 stops of shake correction.  That's incredible as I've used some old Minolta lenses down to 1/20 of a sec and not had shake. 

For landscape shooters like me, shooting bracketed is something we love to do and combine exposures to get the most out of the dynamic range of a scene.  The a7r II supports 9 brackets up to 1 stop in difference.  This will make for some amazing HDR. 

I've already come to realize that Wi-Fi is not a big feature to tout on a camera these days, but it's still standard as is NFC.  I like this because I can send an image to my phone for backup or to my ipad for larger viewing. 

Internal 4K recording is something I'm looking forward to.  I'm excited to work with video and without an external recorder, most cannot produce 4K to the card.  Sony has made this a feature in the new body so you can scale it directly to your SD card.  As monitors, content, and TV's all move to 4K, 8K, 16K and beyond, it's nice that Sony is keeping up and making a stills camera capable of shooting UHD formats. 

The sample images I've seen so far look amazing.  Very sharp, crisp, and detailed.  We are bordering on medium format in a compact package with a  35mm price tag.  With all the features and hype, the early release has indicated this camera will be one to beat this year. 

That's it for now.  Inspiration Tuesday resumes next week and then I'm off to vacation for a few days.  A little beach R&R.  And maybe an R ii :)

- Stay Focused -

Oklahoma: Where the sonic has no drive-in

Recently went on a business trip for 3 days to OKC.  It's about a 6 hour drive from Austin and passes thru a whole lot of nothin'.  I don't mind going into Oklahoma, despise everything about it, but I don't mind it.  Reminds me of why Texas is so awesome.  

The minute you cross the border you start seeing tornado shelter banners and billboards, not a place I want to be running to :).  However, the storm chaser in me wants to go visit and check out some of these cyclones and thunderstorms.  We had a spell of rain while I was there and the lightning over the plains can be pretty intense.  

This image was taken the first night after a storm. 

Enjoyed taking the Sony on this trip.  The a7 is such a light camera and when paired with the 35mm 2.8 Zeiss it's still under 650 grams.  I packed it around town for a few shots of the night life and some skyline.  Hand held it did pretty well on the streets when using low shutter speeds.  When I say low i'm talking 1/10 or 1/30.  Not ideal for shooting architecture.  Street shots were taken at around 1/125 or higher so they were very sharp.  

We stayed near the ballpark there and didn't get a chance to see a game but I snuck around the stadium and snapped a few pics.  It's in a region called "Bricktown", and it's easy to figure out why.  The whole area around here and the river walk has nothing but red brick buildings.  The ballpark is home of the OKC Dodgers, farm team to LA.  Seems when they are away then most people are as well.  Downtown was not very busy, even if it was a Tuesday - Thursday.  

The night scene was pretty slow.  Around the river walk area you can take a boat cruise and see the city.  Many passengers would enter and exit the yellow boats from the entrance to Mickey Mantle's steak house.  Above Mickey's is where I snagged the following shot.  

Oklahoma city at dusk - Devon Energy building

This was shot from the third story above Mickey's steakhouse.  There is a cigar bar and we took a night off to soak in a sunset and enjoy some of the finer things.  This is about as high as I could get so the perspective is still "up the nose" in terms of cityscapes, however, I loved that the American flag was flying proudly and the building lights had just turned on.  

Overall it's a sleepy city at night and we are glad to be back home.  I will say the craft beer scene is bustling with COOP and Black Mesa topping the list.  Not far behind were Roughtail and Prairie.  For a full list check this wiki page

The Tapwerks alehouse was by far the leader in craft beer.  Hundreds of beers, tavern decor and comfort, and an interesting duo of singer/songwriters in there Tuesday.  I leave you with this video i shot on my phone.  It's called "Hotel baby one more time"

- Stay Focused - 


Happy Saturday!  I'm here in Sugarland Tx shooting an event for the Texas state florists. It's a convention hat happens every year and I'm shooting the design show elements before they go on stage.  

its a pretty cool gig. The designers are from all over the world and you can see some amazing art pieces.  The images can vary in size and I had to build a set that would accommodate the designs. 

 

image.jpg

There's about 7 or 8 ft clearance here and I've used every inch so far. I may get to post some shots next week but I'll be on the road for my regular job.  

May not get to post again until next week.  

Have a great weekend and stay safe  

 

                            - Stay focused -

Drink and Click

The worldwide, chapter based group known as Drink and Click put on an event this past week at the Bungalow Bar and it was one of the always successful meetups we have.  The group is dedicated to folks getting together and socializing over our passion, photography.  

I joined a few months ago thinking I could go and just enjoy a night out.  We go to bars and we bring our cameras and shoot models, objects, each other, the drinks, the table, the table leg, the grain in the table...ok, we shoot images.  What developed are relationships, friends with the same interests, and just good people in general. 

The local chapter is the lead group.  It was formed here and spread worldwide to Dallas, Chicago, Tokyo, Berlin, etc.  The chapter goals are the same everywhere. Meetup, have fun, take images, talk shop, and make friends.  

The networking opportunities are abundant as well.  Models generally attend and help us get some great images.  I'm unsure if they are paid, but someone usually sets this up and knows them so it may be mutually beneficial for them to get some portfolio shots from the gig, or TF as it's known.  I generally like meeting them because I generally don't have this luxury of networking yet.  Being friendly, respectful, and sharing images can go along way.  You may find some future collaboration with them on a project that can benefit you both.  

The main image posted I shot this last week and it was with 2 things I'd usually not have access to.  The first was the amazing Kasey Landoll.  She is from Austin, and appears to be living in Sydney right now as a model.  She has an amazing look, edgy, stylish, and sexy.  Very good for fashion, edgy, or glamour work.  Slim build, very tall, and a great attitude.  My shot was taken in 5 minutes and with very little coaching.  I gave a couple directions and she did the rest, a real professional.  

The second item generally out of my reach was the Pentax 645z.  It was a loaner that Ricoh Imaging brought in collaboration with folks from Precision Camera.  We were given 15-20 minutes to go kick the tires.  I've seen folks like Joel Grimes and Philip Bloom shooting this 51mp beast and thought, "Ok, it looks cool, but how good is medium format, or the Pentax for that matter?".  I mean, surely a Phase One or Hasselblad can out-resolve this camera and I shouldn't even bother, right?  I couldn't be farther from the truth, in fact, I was so impressed by this, it put medium format way up on my nice-to-have list someday.  The detail that I could zoom into and do retouching work was incredible.  I manually focused (auto was abyssmal) the shot with the viewfinder and actually nailed it.  Great coverage in the back of the camera using the 90mm/2.8 lens.  We were shooting OCF with an umbrella and Alien Bees B800.  

I was able to grab some video of the event so you can see what it looks like on set at these events.  We sometimes get an area dedicated for us to shoot whatever we want with models and that's pretty forgiving for the bar scene.  However, we do bring in around 30-40 people that for the most part, drink a few.  So the trade off is good business for them and a space for us to enjoy.  Please see my video and leave me some comments on what you think.  I am trying out some external sound via the H1 Zoom recorder and overlaying on top of the video from the Sony A7.  


- Stay Focused - 

Inspiration Tuesday - Eyes

The eyes are the window to the soul they say.  Today's featured images indeed have such windows.  We'll look at how they add dimension and feeling to the images.  If the eyes are not sharp, your image may as well not be.  -someone famous i'm sure

Svetlana by Sean Archer on 500px.com

Sean is an amazing photographer based out of Russia and one of his latest images has stunning eyes indeed.  The color pop and highlight are amazing.  She has a very genuine and inviting look.  The styling is amazing and his photoshop work is classy.  The dodging and burning on the hair and face are impeccable.  Amazing image.

Hannah by Jay Kreens  on 500px.com

The next image from Jay Kreens has a screaming sharp eye clarity.  Her look is menacing, demeaning, almost like "what are you doing here man?".  I love the color and the and the tone of this image.  Some heavy photoshop on the face that is a little sharp, but doesn't distract from the image completely.  Noticeable high pass filter was used on the image to sharpen and accentuates every pixel on her face.  Great character.  

Romka1 by Alexander Sorokopud on 500px.com

I love this final image!  It's got so much brass and once again, the eyes tell the story here.  He's showing he's got some attitude here and this face means business.  Great post work too, and a nice shallow depth of field.  Overall, just a great image.  

- Stay Focused - 

Inspiration Tuesday - Faces

I want to dive into portraits today.  Portraits offer a connection that's easy to make, but hard to create.  I'll explain.  It's easy to make a portrait, but it's hard to create one that has depth, emotion, and a connection.  It needs to tell a story, or it will get labeled as a snapshot very quickly.  With that, let's dive in.  

Our first portrait I discovered yesterday while browsing and I was blown away.  I love the styling of her clothes and hair and her look is very piercing.  She gets me talking about the image.  It was shot with equipment anyone can get, no fancy lighting or techniques, just shallow depth of field and an outdoor cloudy sunset/sunrise.  I like the cool tones in the image counterbalanced by the warmth of her clothes and skin tone.  Her face tells the whole story, she's trying to figure me out, or scoff me as I walk by.  

The second image today comes from Lisa Holloway.  She's an incredible photographer and retoucher.  Her images are very consistent in theme, color, and emotion.  She uses her kids (10 I think) as models for the most part.  This image is a striking portrait of her daughter with a sparkler on the 4th.  Here in the U.S. we like to celebrate independence by lighting things on fire. :) The look on her face is mischievous to me.  Another take I get is solace, or solitude. She's got a lone sparkler and she'll do what she wants with it.  It's a great composition either way, dark, intimate, relevant to the theme of 4th of July.  Great work. 

This final image is from a newly discovered artist to me.  She has a huge following on Instagram and it's easy to see why.  Great portrait/lifestyle artist and this image right here is simply stunning.  The deep glare from the model is intriguing while the styling of the hood and hair are amazing.  I love the colors of the background here blending into the hood as the backlit sun radiates her hair with a kiss of light.  The model has a doll face already but is complimented by the hood shaping her face and adding a red tinge to the cheeks.  This natural light shot has all the right elements: lighting, mood, emotion, and theme.  Amazing job.  

- Stay Focused - 

Inspiration Tuesday - Orbs

Today we dive into images that revolve around orbs, spheres, circular objects, and so on.  The theme shows up in everyday life so much, it's hard to avoid.  Earth is a sphere, rings are circular, ends meet, connections happen.  Karma, the great circle, what comes around goes around, it's all circular.  It's all important.  

The first image here alone was amazing to begin with.  Great sunset, foreground, yet...the orb that was added is such a game changer.  The perspective is now centered on this object, and the reflection or transmission of the image into the sphere was heavily edited, while the remaining scene only slightly.  This brings the viewer straight to the orb.  Very cool concept often done with water drops and flowers as well.  

This image is a long exposure done with 2 different colors.  It's such a beautiful job of keeping the light swinging around in a circle while managing the purple object in the same exposure.  The second orb may have been on a second exposure and combined in post, but if so, you cannot tell at all.  The clouds have a nice dreamy feel to them while the light trails are crisp.  Fantastic image

The final image is so simple, yet interesting.  Why is there a color missing right in front of my viewpoint?  Some pencils are not perfectly lined up in the circle, but we get the idea.  I would have love to seen the pencils arrayed in a color wheel pattern, but I think that is what everyone would expect.  The photographer here chose instead to break some "rules" by arranging them in a scattered fashion with no order.  Depth of field enhances this image by keeping our focus on the pencil tips.  

That's it for this weeks late edition.  Hope you enjoy these images.  As always comments are welcome and visit the photographers work on 500px by clicking the links in the images.

- Stay Focused - 

Inspriation Tuesday - Lines

Hey folks I hope the week is going well so far.  This week we once again have 3 amazing photos from 3 amazing artists.  We are going to focus on lines this week.  I thought if I could bring some synchronous images to the blog I could meld the post together more fluidly.  

 

Our first image just has me reeling like an MC Escher sketch.  The stairs themselves are an artform and tne neon green is such a wild paint color here.  There is great contrast on the dark stairs and rails along with the lights and green walls.  Lines seem to intersect and go askew all at once.  A dizzying array of color splash and linear amazement.  Well done here.  

The second image is quite interesting.  Shot at an off angle to begin with, it breaks all the traditional rules altogether, but also blends a unique harmony between the long exposure or blur in the sky with the sharpness of the edifice.  The teal and grey tones mix well and create a symbiotic palette across the image while the blurred effect give this image a motion effect as if the building were a rocket blasting off.  Very cool image.  

Our final image has so many fantastic lines!  We have a curved nautilus structure with a bevy of lines merging into the center.  It's even offset by the shadow on the ground casting some more contrasty lines.  Getting under the bench provides a unique view on an otherwise ordinary bench.  Great job by the artist here to think about what makes this shot interesting and to showcase that here.  

That is it for this week.  Hope you enjoyed today's themed session - LINES.  It was fun to curate these photos and we'll look for a new topic next week when Inspriation Tuesday returns. 

- Stay Focused - 

Inspiration Tuesday

Hi folks, here again to run down my top 3 images from 500px and shed some light on what makes them so good.  Without further ado, here we go!

What a stunning image to start out with.  The artist points out that he used a Lee Big Stopper, a 10 stop neutral density filter that allows you to shoot at the same aperture, but for a much longer shutter speed due to the darkening of the frame.  Most cameras are set to 1/3 stops each time you click the dial up or down.  So, adding 30 clicks of shutter speed to this image allows for the 60 second exposure, without blowing out the frame.  With a 10 stop filter on, you must pre-focus the camera manually, then put in the filter, then shoot the image.   

He mentions a color cast here.  Most dark filters introduce a color cast like a blue, or purple.  It's easily fixed in post, but he actually left it in the edit.  I think the tone and colors are just right and really make the image.  Warming it up to correct the cast would have left this image unbalanced.  Great work.

Silence caught my eye by how eerie it is.  It's got great warm tones and at first I thought it was a polished floor reflecting the walls and ceiling, but it's actually water.  There appears to be one flower in the water, no puddle, no ripples.  Just a very peaceful image.  

Leading lines make this a strong composition along with the overall zen feeling of the image.  This one really tells me a story without a narrative to accompany.  

3 words for our last image...Depth..of...Field.  Love this!  She is stoic, beautiful, and very intimate in this shot.  The aperture was set at 1.4 so you see nothing but the face in focus.  Even the hair just inches away is falling out of focus.  The Sigma 50mm 1.4 ART lens is supposed to be amazing and in this portrait it shows off big time.

The composition is great, she is in the upper third of the frame and facing the window light.  No strobes used here, nor any needed.  Simple, elegant, beautiful. 

Have a wonderful Tuesday!

- Stay Focused - 

Creating panoramas in Lightroom

Final Image from Lightroom CC

Creating panoramas was a function that we utilized in Photoshop or other various programs up until the release of Lightroom CC.  LR CC has a brand new feature that allows panorama stitching while in the develop module.  This new feature allows you to stay in Lightroom and make edits to the panorama without swapping back and forth to Photoshop.  It does all this...quite well actually!

Above, I have posted an image that I made this week.  This was handheld on the Sony A7 and a Minolta 45mm f/2 Rokkor lens.  The camera is so light weight that I decided to try this without a tripod.  

I used the flip down LCD to see what I was shooting above me and just panned over 3 times and took 4 snaps.  The video takes you thru the camera, a bit on the post processing, and the actual stitching process.  

- Stay Focused -


Inspiration Tuesday

Good afternoon!  It's Inspiration Tuesday and it's fourth edition this week.  I'm glad we have made it 4 weeks and we continue to find amazing work to post and hopefully it inspires you to get out there and shoot!  If you want to visit more work from the artists click on the links below the image.  It should take you directly there to 500px.

The first image we have comes from Peter Stewart.  We have leading lines here that guide us up thru the sky which immediately draws the eye to the center.  The buildings cascade down in shadow as you spiral out from center and that is a perfect use of vignette whether it was done in camera, in post, or just happened naturally.  The more important parts are in light, and the rest falls off in shadow.  The buildings themselves are not interesting, however, the 4 L shapes we see really make it interesting. 

Our next image from Alcol75 is a gorgeous landscape over the countryside.  we see a magnificent sunset camera right with some haze drifting thru the mountains.  The butte in the background is blue in tint as the sky falls off from warm to cool.  Great contrast here as we go from a golden light foreground, to dramatic falloff in the middle ground, and then a mix of warm and cool in the background.  

The final image this week is from Juliana Nan.  If you want to see amazing water drop macro, just go peep her profile.  She is the queen.  Almost every single picture is the same concept, but it's done so well.  This is something that photographers struggle with, narrowing down a discipline.  Now, you don't have to narrow it down so much that it's Photography->Nature->Macro->water drops...but...you should be able to narrow it down to at least macro if you want to move to a specialist role.  

What works so well in this image is the color palette and the use of the soft texture of the petals surrounding the sharpness of the water droplet.  As always, she includes the reflection of the subject in the water which separates these images from just capturing a drop on a flower to creating a piece of art.  I am not sure if she has a special distilled water she uses to drop on the subjects, but it is certainly not as easy as setting up a tripod, putting the macro on f 1.4, dropping some water, and shooting.  These drops are carefully places or photoshopped in later as a separate layer to create the clean, distinct look you see here.  Simply stunning work.  

- Stay Focused -

Meet Roger Dodger!

Shooting personal projects has a real impact on your future work with clients as well.  You have to be energized to shoot your next project or else you risk doing a less than amazing job for your client.

Personal projects can amp that enthusiasm for the craft and keep the creative juices flowing.  I have taken up shooting dog portraits for our local dog rescue Austin Dog Rescue.  If you have some time please check them out.  They are an amazing group of people that have a devout passion for saving the lives of pooches all around Austin.  

I was approached to do a shoot with them and I get to reveal that image some time this year but the net of that meeting was a great bunch of friends who we collaborate on projects together.  One friend has asked me to shoot some images of dogs she fosters and she just so happens to live a hop and a skip from me so it works out well.  

My latest project was with Roger Dodger.  He's a cute little cattle dog with light brown spots and blue/grey coloring up around the neck and back.  He immediately latched on to my heart strings and we hit it off.  He had a very playful attitude and he'd run around the yard and then pose before running away again.  Very well mannered for a 10 week old.  

The portrait shots were just so cute because his little ears would stand straight up.   I told the foster it reminded me of a hyena.  I am sure he will not last long on the adoption site.  I have almost convinced myself just to take him in but alas, i have 2 dogs already.  3 would be too many along with our 3 cats and 2 kids.

If you'd like to check him out he'll be on the ADR page soon and I can connect you with his foster.  Poor guy fell out of a truck and was picked up and brought to a vet to be checked out.  Soon after he was in our foster's good care and is perfectly healthy.  He managed to dodge some traffic so hence the name, "Roger Dodger" 

 

-Stay Focused-

Inspiration Tuesday

Back again this week with another 3 amazing shots from my favorite curation spot, 500px

This week we have 3 stunning photographs yet again, so let's dive in.

Our first entry is from Roland Shainidze.  We have a breathtaking vertical landscape of Toronto's city hall.  Looking at the clouds it was shot on a tripod using long exposure to get the whispy texture.  Although this is a black and white conversion, we see some excellent mid-tones in this image.  The leading lines of the windows draw us straight up while the rills of the column on the left are ominous and looming.  Very well done.  You can see more of Rolands work by clicking on the link here.

Our second image comes from Kaylee Greer.  She's a dog photographer...not kidding...how cool is that?  She was a guest blogger on Scott Kelby's blog recently and you can read about her work here.  

Dog photography is a sport.  You need special skills beyond the camera and Kaylee has this for sure.  Her lighting is on spot (get it?), her posing is incredible, and she employees water in her photography like no one I've seen.  On top of this, it's very apparent the love she has for her subjects and the rapport she builds with them.  I'd say wrangling kids and dogs are the hardest subjects I have photographed.  Dogs respond to toys and treats very well, but they get hyper very quick, so employing these tricks and treats tactfully is very difficult.  

Ok, enough gush, she's amazing.  What drew this shot to my eye was the use of flash on top of the setting sun to backlight the pooch.  It's her latest edition to 500px and a good one.  I'm unsure what the dog is looking at but it's a stoic pose, regal, admirable.  I love this image, very happy to host it on the blog.  

s soon as I saw this image, I just thought of Jurassic World coming up.  I laughed so hard as I hit the homepage of wedding images.  I shoot weddings from time to time and it's hard to get something that is interesting at times when it comes to group shots.  If the bride and groom are into fun shots, you can play and get something like this.  

This shot is awesome for a few reasons.  The first is the foresight of the photographer to imagine this first, then plan and shoot it.  This was not a gag reel image.  The people rehearsed this a few times I bet and the photographer did a great job with the toning and post processing.  It looks like a some haze or fog was added for atmosphere here and the overall tone was shaped into a brown/sepia tone.

The use of perspective was brilliant here.  The outside folks are looking back at a 45 degree toward where the T-rex is.   Bride and groom are front and center and I love how the groom is outrunning the bride.  She has those shoes, the dress, the bouquet, and she's gonna save it all.  The groom is like "I'm outta here!"  

Great job on this, this would be the front page of my wedding album.  

-Stay focused-

Periscope

If you have not checked out Periscope I'd encourage you to if you are a photographer.  The app is a great resource for seeing behind the scenes of shoots or great location scouting from top landscape photographers.   

Periscope is a live-streaming app that allows folks to broadcast on from their phone in real time and allow people to watch and/or comment.  It's still early in production and has a few quirks like 'portrait only' mode.  We hear landscape is on the way.  

With the introduction of Meerkat, Twitter put the Periscope app up on the market around the same time.  I find Periscope to be more user friendly and you can follow/watch people much more intuitively.  

A list of people to follow below is a great way to start.  They are very active and show some great feeds.  This is a list of folks that are very active.  Follow them on twitter already? They will show up in your "Who to follow" when you start up the app.  

@scottkelby
@kelbyone
@peterhurley
@ajnaadams
@jeremycowart
@treyratcliff
@colbybrownphotography
@fstoppers

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.  It's been fun so far checking out live photo shoots, product demos, behind the scenes, etc.  Here is a link to some news on the app.  


Stay focused

Source: periscope.tv

Inspriration Tues....Wednesday :)

Looong Holiday and some frightening events delayed the blog this week.  My apologies to anyone new and looking into this series.  I'll add an extra pic this week just for you!!

I live in Austin, TX and we had some torrential rain, lightning, and tornadoes as major storm cells collapsed over central Texas.  The storms have moved on but our little family was frightened for our lives briefly as the weather teams on tv said "If you live in this area, take your precautions for tornadoes now!"

We survived, the aftermath is lots of water, little destruction, and some cleanup downtown.  All in all, 11 people died and we pray for their families to get thru this with strength.  News stories can be found by #atxfloods on Twitter.  

This week I'd like to start with an image of Bryce Canyon.  This is a gorgeous and monumental park in Utah and the photographer captured an amazing snow dappled scene.  The key to this shot is the rich colors in the canyon coupled with the contrast of snowy scene.  Great depth and toning here and the image is sharp through about 2/3 of the way back and falls off into a nice soft misty cloud deep in the background. You can see more of their work at this link

Our next shot is a portrait and it really drew me in.  First off, shot at 2.8, it has a wonderful falloff.  We go immediately to her face as all good portraits do.  Her eyes should be sharp and they are razor in this image.  The colors of her hair and dress really pop in this image.  The photographer used a gradient blur in post to really accentuate the fall off from in focus to out of focus which actually works well here.  You can tell because even though it was shot at 2.8, the arms and dress are still on the same focal plane as the shoulder and head, only a few inches closer than her nose, but they are completely out of focus.  This kind of blur you would see at around 1.4 perhaps, but not at 2.8.  This takes nothing away from the image, it's a work of art.  See more of Ginger's work here 

Our 3rd image comes from Matthew Harris and it's from the editors choice page on 500px.  I chose this image because it's moody and dark.  Most food shots are very high key and shot at low depth of field.  This image has little depth of field but contains a lot of contrast and the spices are particularly sharp.  I love the color palette and toning used here.  The photographer aligned the spices almost in a color wheel pattern but threw us off with the third spice from left to right. The red pepper flakes make up a scattered array of ambiance and the spices bring in the order to the shot.  Having the whole peppers in the background makes for a complete picture.  

As promised, I said I would curate a 4th image here.  This final image is a black and white and it's gorgeous.  I love black and white when it's done right.  You must have a good contrast in the scene already before you just convert to black and white.  If you have too many bright colors you'll have lots of grey tones and it washes it out.  This image does not disappoint.  Simple subject yet powerful.  Shot with the legendary Zeiss 1.8 ZA lens on the Sony a7, this image has an earthy, raw feel, while being soft as it fades into the bokeh glory.  Using available light and shooting at f2 are the strong points here.  The photographer got the foreground and teapot sharp while letting the rest of the scene wander.  Lastly, it leaves you with some wonder about it.  Is someone settling in for breakfast?  Are two people sitting down to have a nice conversation soon?  Did someone get up from this table in a rush due to some news they received?  We'll never know, but we are excited now.    

Stay focused.  

Inspiration Tuesday: new series on the blog

I'm excited to bring in some images directly linked to 500px.com and reveal a little about each one.  In this series I'd like to show what is great about the images and hopefully just inspire a little bit about a topic or genre that may be interested in.  

This is good for me to to dissect the images, how they were shot, what works, what doesn't perhaps.  It's not a direct portfolio review.  

Let me know in the comments if you enjoy and if we have enough images, too few, etc.  

Without further ado...

The image above is by Maxim Guselnikov who has some excellent portrait work.  The image is subtle with great depth of feild and toning.  I'm not thinking it was shot with a a speedlight, it looks like a vignette was added to darken the corners and keep the subject well exposed while creating drama on the image.  EXIF data shows this was shot at 1.4 with the Sigma 35mm ART lens.  I've heard such wonderful things and clearly this one stands out.  At that depth of field he separated the background wonderfully and stood far enough from the subject to avoid losing depth of field on the subjects face.  

Her look is so simple, but curious.  She has great hair and makeup, and the photoshop dodging/burning plus retouching is just amazing.

Our next image comes from Ivan Gevaerd.  It's a very simple image of an eye but has such a soft and beautiful quality to it.  Once again we see depth of field as a major player to the success of this image.  The color tone and palette is very pleasing and the soft blur and grain you can see just melt this into such a dreamy image.  The sharpness of the eyelashes brings you in as the focal point here and it's possible there was some skin softening done but if so it's not a distraction at all.  

The final image here is from Artur Stanisz.  The image is an iceberg floating along a stream and the dynamics between the landscape and the iceberg are phenomenal.  This is a great use of toning in Lightroom and Photoshop to ensure the distinction is made between the warm tones of the sky and the cool tones of the iceberg.

The photographer made an excellent composition highlighting the foreground elements, the subject in the middle ground, and the sky and mountains in the background.  Shot using the legendary 14-24 Nikon 2.8 lens and the Nikon D810, this 6 second exposure really pulls you into the scene and you image yourself there watching this iceberg float along.

Well done to all the authors of these images this week.  I'll post some more next week on Inspiration Tuesday!  Please share this post with anyone who enjoys photography.  

Stay focused

Minolta ROKKOR-X 1.7 MD Lens review

Picked up my second Rokkor lens the other day and I'm loving it.  It's an excellent copy and has no haze, fungus, purple fringing, or other flaws that I can see.  

Buying lenses used you have to look for these things, as well as testing the aperture ring since that part is manual.  Look through the back of the barrel and check out the inside to see if you can spot anything on the glass.  Older glass may have some dust but if it wasn't kept in a cool, dry place for long then it will show signs of fungal growth, haze, and worse inside the barrel.  

I was very excited to get this from the local camera shop for $25.  Some of these go for $50-$100 on ebay and other resale sites.  The only thing needed is a MD-NEX mount adapter that you can get from Amazon.com for cheap.  Mine is the FOTGA MD-NEX as you can see from the picture.  

Some of the images I've taken are seen below in the gallery.  These are at f 1.7 and ISO 125 straight out of the a6000.  

I'm still working on nailing the manual focus.  At 1.7 you don't have much room to miss so a couple of these are not super sharp but it's my fault.  (You can really appreciate optical stabilization in the newer OSS lenses!) However, you can get the idea of the depth of field you can bring in with this lens.  Everything falls off beautifully in the background.  There is a nice circular bokeh as well.  I'm using these on a crop sensor and I get no vignetting even with the adapter which is a huge plus!

These lenses are a very cheap way to get into using your Sony camera as a walk about without having to spend $700-$1000 on lenses like the 24mm E mount or the 55 1.8.  Yes they are sharp, yes they are autofocus, and yes they are 50x the price of this lens :)

I am now just awaiting the a7rII so I can get a full frame and really see how much depth of field I can produce.  

Stay focused