Light is Everything!

Macro

Getting Stacked

I’ve been a macro photography fan forever. It’s an awesome frontier of photography with literally limitless options for creativity and subject matter. I’ve got the 105mm Micro Nikkor f/2.8 and it’s been a phenomenal workhorse of a lens, especially when paired on the D800 (or any newer super-mega-pretzel sensor). One thing that was missing from my macro photography was the ability to stack images and make one ultra-sharp, hyper-focal image. When you’re shooting macro, it’s impossible to get everything in focus the way you want even stopped way down to f/7Billion.

Enter the wonders of Photoshop. I never used to use it. I had a stand alone version Lightroom that I kept using forever because I didn’t want to move to Adobe’s RIPOFF subscription system. However, when I upgraded to Mac OS X Catalina (the WORST version of Apple software I’ve ever used and my biggest regret in computing), it upgraded to only 64-bit software so my old 32-bit version of Lightroom was no good no mo’. I was forced to upgrade to the subscription from Adobe and I got Photoshop for the first time. I had always used open source software GIMP which was great, but it didn’t have the auto-magic image stacking ability like Photoshop does. Having a computer do all the layer masking stuff for you is the best thing ever.

There’s lots of elaborate guides on how to do this on the internet but here’s how I did it. You bulk edit your macro photos in Lightroom to normalize colours and whatever else you want, then:

  1. Export the files to full-size JPEG
  2. In Photoshop, go up to the File menu in the Menu Bar, choose Scripts, then choose Load Files into Stack.
  3. In the Load Layers dialog box, set Use to Files, then click Browse. Navigate to your images on your computer, select them and click Open.
  4. Back in the Load Layers dialog box, select Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images, then click OK.
  5. In the Layers panel, click on the top layer, then Shift-click on the bottom layer to select all layers.
  6. Go up to the Edit menu in the Menu Bar and choose Auto-Blend Layers.
  7. Crop the image with the Crop Tool to remove problem areas around the edges.

And that’s it! You get a glorious product in the end that is sharp and detailed all the way through your intendedly sharp region of the photo. It’s pretty slick.

Gerbera Daisy 100% Crop
MacBaren Vanilla Cream Pipe Tobacco

So that’s it. If you ever wondered how people got those incredibly sharp and detailed macro photos, this is how. I always remember seeing macro photos of bugs that were razor sharp all the way through and wondering what manner of sorcery it was! But when you look up the magician’s sleeve, it’s not that tricksy after all. 😎


Spring hath Sprung!

The Crocuses have once again returned to the prairies. I saw the most perfect one ever today out back on the prairie and I went back to get a couple macro shots.

Here is the hi-tech lighting setup. Full noon day sun through a reflector scrim. Really nice wrapping and soft light. Nikon D800 with the 105mm macro lens.

1:1 Crop

They truly are a magnificent aspect of prairie life! 😎


Macro Snow

So we had some really neat chunky snow flakes the other day. I ran out early in the morning and nabbed a few macro photos while the wind was low. The trusty 105mm Nikkor and the stalwart Nikon D800 were the weapons of choice for this hunt – maximum resolution and resolving power! 

It’s incredible to see the intricacies of frozen water up close like this. I have included a square cropped image here of the larger picture to see more of the detail. 

It’s pretty wild stuff to see!

The “ball” images above here are frozen chokecherries. They are almost the same image, the only difference is lighting. On the darker blue image I lit the chokecherry with a flashlight in close  and feathered a bit to give the image some shape and specular highlights – which we didn’t get with the flat cloudy ambient light. #Sparkle 🤩

In this block of images you can see the crops of the above. The creative genius of God on display for our viewing pleasure! 😎👍🙏


Shooting Cameras

This is just a quick blog post showing how I was shooting some macro shots of my favourite cameras this evening.

This behind the scenes iPhone shot shows the exceedingly crude setup. Main light is an AlienBee 1600 through a gridded Photoflex soft box. I setup my home made scrim as a big reflector and did a simple blue gelled flash pointed at the back wall to give a bit of colour. Very simple setup with a decent result. 

I also shot the good ol’ Nikon Df with an old 28mm manual focus lens from 19 diggity 5. I took more of a macro approach with this shot and used that same blue flash to add that hint of glancing colour to the shadow side. The blue sets it off just that extra little bit. 

I shot the same kind of angle of the X-Pro2 but it doesn’t work as well to me. The X-Pro2 is more minimalistic in its design, lending to a more covert external appearance anyways (which I like). There’s just not as much going on for the accent light to bring attention too. Anyways, just a fun little shoot for something to do. 

Here’s a link to the Nikon photo in 4K resolution. I shot all these files with the Nikon D800 RAW so there’s resolution to burn. 😎👍


Unfocused

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I was out for a little nature walk the other day. I took the D800 and my 105mm Nikkor macro lens which I haven’t shot in a long time. With macro, you need a good tripod to be locked down tight. And, you need cooperative subjects (read: not windy) that stay still. But this particular day I didn’t bring a tripod. In fact, I didn’t even focus. On purpose. With most macro and landscape photography, you want hyperfocal focus and even focus stacking to get a big, crisp, tack sharp photo as the end result. But what would happen if you did nature photography out of focus??

It creates a pretty wild, abstract, bokehlicious result! Give it a whirl! 😎👍


My Bleeding Heart

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I haven’t been shooting much Macro Photography as of late. And there is no greater bang for your photo buck than a macro lens. It is super versatile! But I do really like it as a genre. I find it very relaxing (in a Shaolin Monk balancing on one finger kind of way). It’s a very precise art form.  It varies considerably from taking photos of people. There is a similarity in the patience and preparation needed to get a great shot. My Mom gave us a bleeding heart plant and we put it in our front garden. Every year it comes back and blooms these beautiful little flowers. I’ve been meaning to photograph it for a few years now and never got around to it. So last night I went for broke and got these two shots I was happy with.

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Here’s a behind the scenes iPhone photo of how I made the images. I was using a speed light in an orbis ring flash for the main light. For a kicker on the top image I used an OLight S1 Baton. That little extra bit of light really adds to the 3D quality of the image. The bottom image was just the orbis from above instead of on axis to give the shot a more “studio” quality light feel.

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Crocuses!

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Springtime is officially sprung in Saskatchewan when the Crocuses are blooming and the wood ticks are crawling! Both of which are true now! Oh well, we can still be excited about the Crocuses! 😎


Happy Valentine’s!

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Nikon 1 V3 + FT-1 Adaptor with 105mm f/18 1/250 ISO 200

 

The Nikon 1 series of cameras are really suited for close up macro/micro work. That small CX sensor is the bomb for getting loads of the image in focus. Normally you might not want that, for portraits and such. But for close up stuff, it’s just what the doctor ordered. I stole my Valentine’s ring for some close up shots and I was impressed. The image quality is great and there is a tonne of detail available. I was lighting these images with a ring flash mod on an SB-900 that I had to cheat a bit to make work. It’s a shame that the R2-D2 pop up flash on the V3 doesn’t allow for Nikon CLS control. That would be sweet sassy molassy and could be added in a future firmware update.

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Nikon 1 V3 + FT-1 Adaptor with 105mm f/18 1/250 ISO 200

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Nikon 1 V3 + FT-1 Adaptor with 105mm f/11 1/250 ISO 200

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Nikon 1 V3 + FT-1 Adaptor with 105mm f/11 1/250 ISO 200

Macro ring shots are something that I do at every wedding we shoot. So the extra detail that this smaller sensor can capture is great, especially when coupled with an FT-1 adaptor and Nikon’s 105mm micro lens. In all truth, it’s too long for this kind of work. Probably Nikon’s sleeper 60mm micro 2.8 would be just the ticket for working with the FT-1 adaptor.

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Nikon 1 V3 + FT-1 Adaptor with 105mm f/8 1/4 ISO 200

With the same setup I shot this peacock feather. The detail is very good with the 18MP sensor. Also diffraction sets in super fast with the 105. Probably f/8 is more than enough to capture detail and still have a sharp image.

Again, the image quality and capability of the V3 camera is stellar. The possibilities for creativity with it are only limited by one’s imagination! 😎


PhotoWalk

 

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Enjoyed a little photo walk for an hour late this afternoon. Gorgeous weather for a stroll in the ol’ ravine behind our place. One camera, one lens: D800 & 105mm macro.  Still such a versatile combination. 😎 Just meandering along, looking for light, colour & texture. Very therapeutic!


Relaxing Macro

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Every once and while it is just awesome to kick back and relax with some macro photography. So much of the time we’re used to seeing the big, landscape madness photo. But if we slow down and crouch down, the tiny world is an amazing place. I was using my DIY Scrim and Orbis Ring Flash  to control the light and reshape it. It still requires quite a bit of work, but I find it to be super relaxing. It’s kinda like Shaolin Monks when they are at rest:

😎 My good friend and gardener of the century Carol Tetzlaff had us out at her place to check out the Lilies that were in bloom. The weather was ideal and there wasn’t a breath of wind. Which also meant that the mosquitos had me for their bonanza. It was worth every bite. 🙂


Crocuses

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The kids wanted to go looking for crocuses yesterday. So did I. 🙂 So we went out back and found a few little bunches. I’m not sure if they are just starting to come up or are nearly done. Normally they’ve come up even through a light snow. But this year the weather has been wonky so say the least. I feel a special attachment to crocuses as they are “Saskatchewan’s Flower” at least anecdotally. 😉 I’ve seen more crocuses than tiger-lilies, I’ll put it to you that way. heehehe…..

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About the technique for nabbing these photos. I went out with a collapsible reflector/diffuser to block the harsh sunlight that was pouring in. I had my D800 & 105mm macro for this detail-rich gig. I was shooting at apertures of f/16 or f/32 so I needed more light reach this at ISO 100 and 1/250. I used my Orbis ring flash and SB-900 synced with an SC-29 cord. I basically was able to set the Orbis on edge on the ground, which doubled as a rest, and shoot right through it.  It worked great. 😎 The macro detail that the D800 can capture is really tremendous!  Here’s a 100% crop and the full shot beneath.

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Fun with Fiber Optics

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The kids got some super rad fiber optic tree things for Christmas. They look cool and have provided hours of entertainment already. So I decided to cash in on the coolness with my macro lens. Just like mini fire works! 😀

FYI: Just as an aside, I tweeted to Sasktel about when the Oxbow area will be getting Fiber for internet. . . . 2017. 😯


Itsy Bitsy Spider

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It’s been a long stretch with no bloggin’ so today I decided to catch up a bit. I have been über busy as of late with Grad shoots and funerals, plus and impromptu road trip with my boy. So I haven’t been doing much recreational shooting. But this morning after another glorious rain, conditions were perfect to do some raindrop chasing. The D800. For as much as I LOVE my X100s, I won’t soon part from the full frame glory of 36 glorious mega pixels. The color and quality of the images is really superb. Whilst wandering around the yard, I noticed a nearly microscopic spider. And thankfully, she (we’ll call her Charlotte :D) cooperated and I was able to nab a couple of images. There was a slight breeze which really sucks for macro photographers. I was already at IS0 3200 trying to keep a high enough shutter speed to freeze the motion. Tricky business. But super fun! Gotta love Macro. 😎

Bonus Video! BTS of the complete and utter gong show Macro Photography can be in the wind. Or breeze. heheheheh… 😆


Welcome to Mars

 

20130206LichenCrop2I watched a documentary one time about Shaolin Monks. In the documentary, it showed them all doing super human things like balancing on one toe with 3 other monks on their shoulders, laying on a bed of nails without getting hurt, etc. And for recreation, they all balanced standing on each other in positions that would make Cirque du soleil jealous! To relax these people did this! Incredible! 😎

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I think of Macro Photography in much the same light. For me, it’s a very nice, relaxing, fun kind of photography – that takes the utmost concentration! I’ve noticed it get even more challenging since I got the D800. The slightest movements of the subject render the shot out of focus, even at f/16. I think using DX for macro for so long I got used to the DX look of the photos. It appeared that more was in focus than with a full frame camera, but it’s not true. It’s that there is more photo there with a greater angle of view throwing more out of focus on the edges that simply isn’t there in DX. I put the D800 into DX crop mode and tried it out. Sure enough, both an FX frame and the DX crop frame had the same stuff in focus in the frame. It’s just that there was more in the D800 file to be out of focus. If that makes sense. 😀 Shoalin Camera Monk time! 😉

The name of the game today on this dark and dreary cesspool of flat light was macro lichen. It’s the little mosses that grow on trees. And no, they don’t only grow on the north side! 😉 heheehhee…… To me, these images look like an alien landscape, especially when you crop way in to 100%!


Her Majesty

In Canada, we change our money designs like most normal people change their clothes. Our brand spankin’ new 20s are out and as I looked them over, I couldn’t help but notice that Her Majesty looks, well, rather chapped. Mildly annoyed. Like when she saw prince Harry’s party pics from Vegas. They showed her that and took her picture and now, it’s on the 20 dollar bill! And the more you look at it, the scarier and more intimidating it is. Like she’s peering right into your soul and knows what you did! uhuhuhu… shudder! 😯

What’s worse? The Queen staring at you for 10 hours, or Liam Neeson starting at you for 10 hours? 😉

 

 


JF Engraving

JF with Movember Madness

Oxbow’s latest entrepreneur, James Fonstad, has setup an engraving company called JF Engraving. James does computerized laser engraving on just about any medium you can imagine. The tagline for the business is “if you can dream it, chances are we can do it!” And that’s the truth. From classy aluminum business cards, to dog tags, to pens, to wine glasses, leather,  stainless steel – nearly anything can be engraved with laser precision. The results are outstanding! It’s amazing to see your vision for a project materialize right before your very eyes as the laser beam brings it all to reality. 😎

Laser engraving leather on a water bottle

I took some shots of James’ finished products for you to check out. The detail is amazing! If you’re looking for that custom giftware, look no further than locally owned and operated JF Engraving!


Trust The Natives

Truck needs a wash! iPod camera ISO 32 3mm f/2.4 1/651 🙂

Well this year I finally decided to bite the bullet and get some winter tires for my ol’ Honda. It’s not as if we don’t get snow on the prairies, its just that for the last few years, the winters have been very mild as far as snow goes. But every year, there is always an ice storm of some kind leaving heinously crappy roads in its wake. Enter: dedicated winter tires. I sold my right kidney and got them studded too. What an amazing difference!

These wee little metal spikes are embedded into the tire itself, giving added traction in slippery conditions. The other morning I was off to Frobisher and I noticed the road had turned to glare ice just as I was leaving town. I slammed on the breaks with these studded bad boys and I stopped nearly on a dime with no lateral movement. I couldn’t believe it. They are like having a set of cat claws permanently installed on your truck! It’s pure awesome! 😎

As with everything I ever do, I research the hilt out of everything, ad nauseum. No different with tires. All kinds of manufacturers make them, but it has always seemed smart to me to buy products from people who live and work in the same conditions as I do. So, I chose Nokian. They are a Finnish company and do lots of testing in Sweden – on frozen lakes. Their motto is “Trust the Natives.” And, I 100% do. These people live and drive in and around the arctic for crying out loud! These tires have traction where there isn’t any. They plow through snow as if you’re driving a tractor! If you’ve never had winter tires before, I highly recommend you get a set. And studded is even better. True, they are a little noisier on the bare roads, but on our crappy snow/ice covered gong show roads for 50% of the year, it’s really a no brainer. I got mine at Oxbow Tire as they were local and competitive in pricing. And lets face it, it’s all about safety for you and your family and others. Nobody ever stands around at a funeral and says “Wow, that car sure got good gas mileage!” – Trust me, I’ve been to a lot of funerals.

Nokian Hakkapeliitta 7 SUV

 


Madame Peacock

 

This post could be called D800 Snugs part 2. I took full advantage of Teresa’s camera while she was here. Ironically, I have been wanting to get a macro shot of a peacock feather for a long, long time. However, since the D800 came out, I’ve been waiting to use it to capitalize on the megapixels and get blown away by the sheer awesomeness of the detail. It didn’t disappoint. The 105mm micro lens is unreal sharp. I used it on the feather but also for the ad hoc portrait of Talitha . . . who’s last name is Peacock. Go figure. Serendipity? 😎 Talitha is a super rad girl and, she’s a harpist which makes me cool and couth by association. Check out her music here: http://peacocksmusic.com. I was blown away by the portrait. Goes without saying that Talitha is beautiful, but the quality of the file is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The D800 really brings it! 😎 The feather image is going huge on my wall. I’ll see how 36×48 looks! 🙂


Making Snugs with the D800

A friend of ours was on her way through the hood and was able to stop by for a couple days visit. It was super fun to have Teresa and her (and our new) friend Talitha stop by. We haven’t hung out for many moons as Teresa and her husband have been living in New Zealand for a couple of years. Great to have them back in Canada! And, it was a grand occasion for me additionally because I got to play with the Nikon D800! Teresa is an awesome photographer now based out of Calgary, AB. Check her out at http://teresarehmann.com.  We traded some photography as she needed some updated portraits and we needed a family photo that has all of us in it! bwahahhaah… 😎 And, I got to test the D800 extensively. And test I did, plugging all my lenses onto it and running it through it’s paces. I know the sensor is good. But I didn’t know it was THAT good. It is unbelievable. I’m really not exaggerating here. The image quality, the sharpness, the detail, the contrast, the colour, it’s nearly beyond description. And for what I do, portraits, landscapes and macro stuff, it’s a match made in heaven. HOWEVER. And it’s a big however, the files are so huge that they are unruly. We shot everything in RAW pretty much and editing them on my 3.06 iMac with 8 GB of RAM was painful. Slow. Excruciatingly so – packed in the whole Mac and needed a reset once. But it’s worth it! The images are unbelievable, especially with my 105mm macro lens. “Wicked sharp” has a whole new meaning to me!  There’s just sooo much detail and nothing hides from that sensor. Probably need a new computer though . . . 😀

 


Turtle Power!

Auntie Heather found a friendly turtle at her place and she brought it over for the kids to check out. What a riot! It brought back fond childhood memories of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Except we were surrounded by toddlers and babies. hehhehe… 😉 Auntie Heather is a hero in a half shell in our books! 😎


In the Garden

I posted some weird photos of a moth last night on Facebook. After I saw this strange thing, I thought it was a hummingbird! But it turned out to be a form of a hummingbird moth. Which makes sense. Because it looked both like a moth and a hummingbird. heheheehh….. 😉 I was out in the yard last night trying to get a macro photo of a Monarch Butterfly that has been hanging around our place for the last few days. Our lilac bushes are in full bloom and they are drawing all manner of creepy crawly. So I waited and waited and waited and finally the Monarch showed up. But they were very finicky and flighty. It proved very tricky to creep up close and nab a shot. But I was happy to be able to get one at all. I was using my 150mm macro lens and even on my DX format body, it’s reach almost isn’t enough. I think that Sigma’s 150mm would be just that much nicer, in terms of reach, for going after the creepy crawlies. I also nabbed a bumble bee shot. You can’t tell from the photo but that bee was so huge that she had her own area code! heheheh… 😎


Macro Blossoms

I still love Macro Photography. Always will. There is no bigger bang for your buck than a macro lens. EVER! It’s so fun and enjoyable getting up close and personal to the tiny world. But it also takes some rockin’ portraits too.  I love the extra bokehlicious num-nums I get when I use this lens. As the sun was sneaking away again for another night, I ran out to get some blossom photos. The kids were playing, it was loads of fun. The light was soft and directional. It was indeed a beautiful evening. Then, my dog rolled in cow crap in the back pasture and ruined the whole night. Sigh. 😉

 


Red Admiral

Spring is springing, the blossoms are blooming and the butterflies are flying!  😎 Exciting stuff. At lunch I noticed these butterflies swarming around like my brother at an all you can eat buffet. I grabbed the macro lens and went to town. It was awesome! Later I identified them as Vanessa atalanta – Red Admiral butterflies. The sun was high so everything was nice and contrasty and colour rich. Boo ya!


Lady

In the pub “Bobby’s Place” in Moose Jaw, there are his and hers bathrooms like in any other public house. However, in Bobby’s the doors are labeled “Laddies” and “Ladies”. I watched for over an hour as woman after woman went  through the “Laddies” door! bwahahaah… 😀 They all came out with the same shock & awe embarrassment face! . . . That little anecdote has nothing to do with this blog post other than it’s about Macro Photography of Lady Bugs. 😉 Sorry for the red herring. Anyways, nabbed these shots of this lady bug today. Everything is super saturated in colour from the rain and dark cloud lighting conditions. I love the textures and the colours in these shots. The lady bug stands out like Shaquille O’Neil in Alameda. 😎