Tag Archives: national park

Really Right Stuff Gear Review

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reallyrightstuff.com

 

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A low angle set-up was required to capture this sunrise at Joshua Tree National Park

Adding a camera support system to your gear, consisting of a tripod and head, opens up an entire new world of shooting possibilities, not possible with handheld photography. There are many tripod set-up options available, and surfing the web can quickly become overwhelming. When it comes to a camera support system, quality is of utmost importance, after all a tripod and head needs to function smoothly and accurately to give you the best opportunity to capture a sharp image, not to mention keeping your camera secure. That is why I was both thrilled and honored to have the opportunity to work with the Really Right Stuff Company, but seriously, they do not need my approval.

The really right stuff company started out in 1990, and currently ship their gear to over 120 countries. They have turned into a huge success, for good reason. The quality of their product is exceptional, and provides both pro and amateur photographer with a wealth of camera support gear necessary to capture great images.

As a landscape photographer, I have gone through several different tripod and ballhead combinations. Now, after 16 years of photographing in the field, I am fortunate enough to be in a position where I can choose photo gear which will give me the best chance possible to get the shot. Right out of the box, my RRS gear felt different than any other camera support gear I have used, giving me an instant feeling of having a professional quality product with me in the field. Using RRS equipment, has actually given me the chance to set up in more shooting situations than ever before. The piece of mind I have knowing my camera is on such solid support is invaluable, from the feel of the camera being firmly attached to the tripod and head, to the super-smooth action of adjusting the tripod legs and positioning the ballhead, for every shot.

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Tripod legs spread out unevenly on various sized rocks for this 25-second exposure was no problem using my Really Right Stuff camera support system

Whether shopping for a complete system package or individual piece of gear, Really Right Stuff carries everything required to keep your camera firmly supported in just about every situation. After careful research, I had no hesitation in upgrading to an RRS support system. I found their website to be very informative, and in no time I was able to find the best package to suit my needs. However, if more help is required, customer support is available by both phone or email, and the response time is typically very fast and very helpful. The RRS gear I chose to be my prime camera support system, is listed below. To help you select the right tripod, the RRS website includes an illustrated guide, specifically designed to match the length of each tripod model with the physical height of the photographer. I thought this was a very nice touch. Included in my package is a dedicated quick release L-Plate, which attaches to the camera, and is available for most DSLR models. The L-Plate makes the transition between shooting horizontal and vertical format, incredibly quick and smooth. For the ballhead, I chose lever-release over screw-knob as my preferred clamp option. This option allows for maximum speed during set-up, as well as offering maximum camera stability.

My camera support system set-up

TVC-23 Versa series-2 3 sections/leg Tripod

BH-40 mid-size lever release Ballhead

BD810-L L-Plate

It may have taken me a while to get on the Really Right Stuff band wagon, but now I have, I could not be happier. Their gear receives my highest recommendation.

 

David Shield  www.davidshieldphotography.com

 

 

 

 

 

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Image Stacking for Landscape Photography Part One

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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

A Magical Memory

I took this image several years ago during a trip to Katmai National Park, in Alaska. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find the original 645 transparency, which is the reason for the images poor quality. This version of the image was scanned from an 8×10 print, and therefore is not currently featured on my website, due to insufficient quality a larger print would yield.

However, the events that preceded this scene were in my opinion quite unbelievable, and probably the most magical experience I have had while in the field. If you have time, I invite you to read my mystical story below… It is a true story!

Several years ago, I visited Katmai National Park, so I could get close and personal with the brown bears of Alaska. On the last full day of the trip, I joined a group of adventure seekers that took a bus ride from Brooks Falls to Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes; also part of Katmai National Park.

About two miles in to the drive, our old yellow school bus entered a densely forested canopy of trees. To our amazement, at that very moment a bird; either hawk or kestrel flew in front of the bus. The bird appeared to lead the bus through the dense canopy for what seemed to be at least two minutes, and only broke off as the bus emerged from out of the forested canopy.

On the return trip, everyone in the group looked out the front window of the bus, with eyes wide open as we re-entered the forest canopy. This time however, there was obviously not to be a repeat of that earlier magical event.

However, as the bus again emerged from the dense forested canopy, there were suddenly several gasps. For instead of just the dark grey sky we had seen moments ago, there was now a beautiful rainbow sitting below the Katmai Mountains.

No matter what level of photographer you are, I think many of us imagine or believe in some kind of magic associated with nature. As for me; I know that there was at least one guy on that old school bus who realized we were not going to see that bird again. After all; we only just missed it, as it had already flown through the forest ahead of us and returned to the mountains.