Landscape Photography During a Storm

Storm Light at Lake Tahoe

Two sayings speak to this shot. First, the one about a picture can’t do a scene justice. Standing there in the driving hail, witnessing multiple lightning bolts was quite the experience, but as hard as I tried I could not capture one bolt. The main part of the storm cleared right at sunset, so I was disappointed by the lack of color in the sky; however I was happy to come away with one shot from this quick but memorable trip.

My decision to shoot at Lake Tahoe was based purely on the storm in the forecast, and the chance of it clearing at sunset. This brings me to the second saying that came to mind. Be careful what you wish for…Yea, right!

Essential Gear

  • Rain jacket with head cover
  • Water proof footwear
  • Water proof cover for photo equipment
  • Keep a set of dry cloths in your car so you can change after the shoot

*Breast Cancer Awareness*Reach Out*

A colorful dramatic sunrise at Natural Bridges State Beach, in Santa Cruz.

A colorful dramatic sunrise at Natural Bridges State Beach, in Santa Cruz, California.

*Breast Cancer Awareness*Reach Out*

I wanted to do something different, and share a story with my latest image.

Just over a year ago a mother moved to the U.S. to be closer to her son. For years and for various reasons she had not taken the time to make any medical appointments. Now in the U.S. she was encouraged to take better care of herself and sign up for a medical plan. This led to her having a routine mammogram followed by a biopsy, and then being diagnosed with breast cancer. Learning that she had breast cancer was a shock and very scary; however in this case the fortunate thing was the cancer was detected early, at stage one. The oncology doctor scheduled the woman for the necessary lumpectomy surgery, and after some recovery time and tests it was thankfully confirmed that the woman had beaten breast cancer.

I hope by writing this short story, I will be able to reach out to someone who will think about reminding their wife, sister, daughter, girlfriend and of course mother to have regular mammograms. This is so important and means a lot to me. Cancer is a very hard word to hear, but if caught early, the chances of survival can increase enough to save many lives.

Before Sunrise, Emerald Bay

Landscape Photography Twilight LE Technique

One great benefit of having some interest in the sky during sunrise or sunset is the opportunity to photograph a scene at different times, and be able to come away with more than one acceptable image.

On this particular morning, there was very nice cloud cover above Lake Tahoe. Hoping to make the best of the situation, I set up to photograph not only at sunrise, but also just before and after sunrise. I also used different filter techniques to photograph each moment, so I could capture multiple effects. For this image I used a 10-stop ND filter, to show the effect of streaking pre-sunrise clouds above Emerald Bay. When shooting in the direction of the sun, I like to use a long exposure to obtain this streaking cloud effect just before sunrise and also after sunset, through twilight.

Carefully check the first couple of exposures in the camera’s viewfinder. If you notice blown-out highlights in the sky you will have to adjust the in-camera exposure. Another option is to attach a neutral density grad filter to your Big Stopper filter. This will eliminate blown-out highlights,

Landscape Photography – Looking at the Whole Picture

Now I am Free

Landscape photography can be all about catching a beautiful or dramatic fleeting moment. However, there are also times when a photographer is presented with an opportunity to take the time to look at a particular scene and determine the best way to capture an image which conveys a specific look or feeling. In this instance of looking through the camera’s viewfinder, a landscape photographer is looking at the whole picture.

In this image of the dead tree at Botany Bay, I had enough time to compose the image exactly the way I wanted, so I could convey the feeling of motion I felt, and the different texture effects that were being created, within the frame.

I was able to take several different exposures of this scene, before carefully reviewing each shot once I returned home. I decided that this 4-second exposure best conveyed the elements of the whole picture I witnessed while photographing this scene.

Image Stacking for Landscape Photography Part One

Zerene Logo

Just four images needed to be stacked to create this image

Just four individually focused exposures were needed to create this image.

Typically used during post-processing of macro photography, Zerene image stacking software processes multiple images taken of a single composition to create a completely in-focus output image. Being a Landscape Photographer, I was curious if this concept would work for the type of images I capture. After using Zerene focus stacking software, I am now convinced that I am on to a really good thing, and in part one of my review I will explain why Zerene Stacker can be an invaluable tool for much more than just macro photography. I have added “Part One” to this review title simply because I have used the software to process just a couple of images so far. I intend to photograph and process more images using Zerene Stacker, which will allow me to fully illustrate the software’s limitless potential, in this field. First lets take a quick look at the Zerene Stacker interface.

The Home Screen where you begin by adding files (images) to the current project

The Add Source Files dialog box will appear, from where you will simply select and upload images from the location they are saved in. The number of images uploaded for each project will depend on the number of focus points you have photographed of that particular scene. I recommend a series of at least three shots, at different focus points when photographing a landscape. One advantage of using focus-stacking software for landscape photography is you will not need to take many shots to process a completely sharp image in Zerene Stacker, for most scenes. This means that after a short learning curve, you will have the ability to process images with more impact in just a short amount of time.

Click on screenshot to enlarge

Click on screenshot to enlarge

Image files are now loaded into the current project

For this project I have selected twelve images, which are displayed here as a single image stack. Clicking on any of the twelve image files listed in the Input Files column on the left, will bring that file to the top of the stack, making it the visible file. Next, select Stack from the task bar. Here, you will discover that there are two image stacking options from which to choose from, each based on creating an output image using a different processing algorithm. These are PMax and DMap. I found each method capable of producing different results, and therefore, experimentation is the best way to determine which method will produce the best output image for you. Read a detailed description of both stacking methods here. DMap versus PMax 

Click on screenshot to enlarge

Click on screenshot to enlarge

Output image ready for the magical Retouching Tool

Once the all important stacking step is completed, it is time to use the program’s Retouching Tool. With just a little time and concentration, this is where you will eliminate any artifacts and image-stutter, which are a result of moving elements in the scene such as clouds or in this case lupines blowing in the wind. For this step you will need to magnify both images. I use a setting of 100%, which allows me to easily see details, while quickly scrolling through all parts of the image. Each file on the left of the screen represents each individually focused shot. Simply match the best focused shot with the area of the image on the right you are using the Retouching Tool. The tool itself is very easy to use. Just like the Paintbrush Tool found in Photoshop and Lightroom, simply brush over any area that has been effected by movement or wind. When zooming into the lupine image, I was able to see and correct several areas effected by motion-stuttering. Using your mouse, you can easily control the size of the brush area, on the fly. Once you have finished retouching the image, go to Edit>Commit Retouching. Your image will then appear in the column at the left of the screen, under Output Images “Retouched.” Not all projects will require retouching. For example, the image near the top of this review of the tree and Half Dome includes features that were not affected by wind or movement, during the time it took to capture the series of shots needed. For some reason this screenshot did not record the Retouching Tool Brush. Click here Landscape Tutorial Page  and look at the forth image to see an example illustration of the Brush Tool in action.

Click on screenshot to enlarge

Click on screenshot to enlarge

Save Output Image(s) Window

Save Output Images will open the output options window. From here you will choose the output file size and type that matches the workflow you typically use. My preferred settings are to save each new image as a TIFF file, at 300 ppi. Next, chose a location on your computer where you wish to save the new file. This will be the location where you will open your stacked file for further post-processing such as color correction and sharpening.

Click on screenshot to enlarge

Click on screenshot to enlarge

http://zerenesystems.com/cms/stacker

Detailed product information and support can be found here: FAQ Page  Tutorials  Support
Zerene Focus-Stacking

Capture One Pro 7 Review

BOX

Introduction

Capture One Pro 7 http://www.phaseone.com/capture-one is an extremely powerful raw software converter featuring a comprehensive set of tools to help create stunning results from your image files. Capture One’s performance and Image workflow sets it apart from any other imaging program I have used. With its fully customizable workspace, I am now able to process image files faster and can produce images with improved noise reduction, higher dynamic range and superior clarity. This is because Capture One Pro has created a new and groundbreaking image processing engine. With its new Bayer Interpolation Method, it will allow you to achieve vastly superior image quality with excellent color and fine detail from your camera’s raw files.

Importing Image Files

Importing image files in Capture One Pro is a breeze. Connect a card reader to your computer, insert a memory card and Capture One Pro will open the import window automatically. Image files can also be imported from your computer by clicking open the image and choosing Capture One from the program list. My preferred method is to click on the down arrow located in the top left corner, as shown in the screenshot below. The Import Images dialog box will open. Here you will select the location from where to import your files, fill in the desired fields and press import.

Click on screen to enlarge

Click on screenshot to enlarge

Exposure Screen

The exposure window screen is one area where Capture One really shines. This is where image exposure can be improved dramatically in a few simple steps. Using the High Dynamic Range tool, I have been able to correct extreme highlights and recover detail in deep shadows faster and more accurately than with any other software. The powerful Levels and Curve tools can be used to fine-tune exposure while the Clarity and Structure sliders will add punch and brilliant detail to each image.

Click on Screenshot to enlarge

Click on Screenshot to enlarge

Color Editor

Phase One states that the Color Tool Tab and its functionality should always be the cornerstone of your image editing workflow. Here, Capture One Pro provides a set of tools to adjust colors that are designed to produce stunning results more efficiently than ever before. Essential tools such as White Balance, Color Balance and a Histogram are found in this window. The powerful Black & White editing tool allows users to create stunning black & white images. The Color Editor tool will fine tune color in your images, and this is where the magic happens. Selecting the Basic Tab and color picker allows users to click on a specific color in an image to modify. When the View selected color range box is checked, only the color affected by any adjustments will be visible. In the screenshot below I used the color picker to select the blue area of the balloon.   Selecting the Advanced Tab allows users to adjust the most narrow color spectrum without affecting other colors in an image. For this screenshot, I placed the cursor over the Color Editor Icon to highlight it. Drag To Reorder appears in the pop-up box, allowing users to customize the interface to set up a workspace for a particular job.

Click on screenshot to enlarge

Click on screenshot to enlarge

Built-In Presets

Capture One Pro offers a set of built-in presets similar to ones found in other image conversion programs. Presets can be found by clicking Adjustments>Styles, from the main menu. Even though most Capture One users will prefer to choose from the extensive adjustment tools available, individual presets can be applied alone or together very effectively, especially if a job needs to be completed to meet a deadline.

Click on screenshot to enlarge

Click on screenshot to enlarge

Sharpening and Image Quality

Photographers with Photoshop experience will already be familiar with the Sharpening tools found in Capture One. The Noise Reduction Tabs found in this window provides yet another indispensable feature found in Capture One. The Noise Reduction tools will allow photographers to shoot using higher ISO settings with complete confidence knowing they will be able to produce noise-free images with superior clarity.

Click on screenshot to enlarge

Click on screenshot to enlarge

To export a processed file, go to File>Export and choose either the Originals or Variants option. Choosing Export Variants will export the processed version of your image file. The Store Files drop down menu will appear. Choose a location where your image file will open and complete the image output options, as desired.

Other highlights of Capture one include Lens Correction, where typical optical issues like distortion, light falloff and chromatic aberation can be fixed quickly and easily. The Keystone Correction Tool can transform warped captures into natural looking images in a few simple steps. Capture one incorporates Tethered Capture so you can instantly import and view images as you shoot them. Other features include Levels and Curves, a Composition Tool, Focus Check, Sessions, a Spot Removal Tool and much more…

The final balloon image processed in Capture One Pro 7

The final balloon image processed in Capture One Pro 7

Conclusion

Before deciding if Capture One Pro 7 was the right choice for me, I processed several images using four popular raw software conversion programs currently on the market. These were Adobe Lightroom 5, Capture One Pro 7, DxO Optics Pro and Oloneo’s HDR+RAW software. While I was impressed by Capture One’s user customization options, ease of use and processing speed, there was one factor that elevated the software above the competition. A Landscape image is often judged by the quality of color and light captured. Capture One consitently produced the most accurate and dynamic light and color rendition of all the four programs.

Capture One Pro 7 vs Capture One Express 7

While Capture One Pro contains more features than Express, the latter can still very much hold its own, offering most of the powerful features found in big brother. Professional and advanced amateurs will require the ability to use layers, a feature only available in the Pro version, but users who already own Photoshop will easily be able to continue making any necessary adjustments within that software. Owning both Capture One Pro 7 and Photoshop is the ideal situation. However, if I had to start over and was able to choose only one program, I would use Capture One exclusively. Not only does capture One Pro give me the ability to produce the best possible images from my raw files, but it is also available at a price much easier on my wallet than the full version of Adobe Photoshop.

Click on the following link to view pricing for Capture One, and a Key Features Comparison chart for Pro and Express. http://www.phaseone.com/en/Imaging-Software/Capture-One-Pro-7/Pricing.aspx 

Phase One is currently offering a free 60-day trial of Capture One! Taking advantage of this offer is a fantastic option, and one that made me realize what an indispensable tool this software is. Capture One is compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems.

LOGO

Ingredients for Long Exposure Photography

One of my favorite ways to share my work and express my passion, is through Long Exposure photography. With this medium, it is possible to enhance color and fading light in a scene, where to the human eye; both color and light would normally appear to have all but disappeared.

I especially like to use this effect for color photography; however this technique can produce fantastic looking effects to Black and White images. In either format, images can take on a surreal look, especially when the motion of moving water is transformed in to a sheet of silk, or clouds are turned in to streaks of light.

The ingredients (or elements) needed to produce these effects, can vary according to each scene. However, below is a list of ingredients I used to capture the image featured in this blog.

1. Tripod  Really? Dare I mention the obvious? An exposure of 300 seconds was used to take the image accompanying this post, so a steady hand just would not do it.

2. Cable Release  Keeping your hands off your camera during a long exposure is critical, to avoid camera shake that would result in image blur.

3. Pro or Advanced Level Camera  A camera with the ability to be set to record exposures upwards of 30 seconds.

4. Neutral Density Filter  When attached to the front of your lens, or placed into a filter holder, this filter will allow increased exposure times. The strength of this filter is measured in stops. The highest stop value will allow the longest exposure times. There are several companies that make ND filters. The brand I use are circular glass screw on filters, and are made by B+W. I own two 10-Stop filters; to accommodate both 67mm and 77mm lens thread sizes. This filter is often used in combination with a Neutral Density Graduated Filter. A 10-stop ND filter is also great for long exposure photography, during the daytime.

5. Colorful Sky  Even well after sunset, color can be recorded and enhanced with a long exposure.

6. Clouds  If you want to create a streaking clouds effect. A sky with both cloudy and clear patches is ideal to obtain an effective surreal look.

7. Water  Water in motion such as ocean waves, usually yields the greatest effect. The longer the exposure, the smoother the water. Thirty seconds may be enough; however an often used exposure to create the most surreal effect is around 240 seconds.

8. Wristwatch or Stopwatch  To obtain an accurate desired exposure time. An alternative is to buy a cable release that can be electronically programmed to shoot chosen exposure times. These are called intervalometers, or timer remote releases.

9. Patience  Like most things, obtaining the desired result can take patience. Having an understanding of how light works, and how light will effect the scene you are attempting to shoot is very important. Practice is often needed to perfect not only each ingredient of the shoot, but to also strike the right balance between them.

Choose the right scene, exposure, aperture and timing, and you just may find that you will develop quite an appetite for this form of photography.

Image

Swiftcurrent Lake, Montana

The above image was taken 30 minutes after sunset. The exposure used was 300 seconds, at f/11.