View my November 2018 Newsletter here: https://mailchi.mp/3bc9e7f44d4c/l0nyx4dikv-3359581
Not all macro subjects are captured sharp in a single image, that makes a great reason to focus stack. In preparing for a camera club presentation, I decided to focus stack a new object. I chose a piece of fordite from Cadillac Ranch. If you aren’t familiar with fordite, just think – layers of paint. The first image (image A) is a close-up image of the piece of fordite that measures 2” x 1”. I used my 12-100mm lens and got as close as I could to capture the image. Then, with my macro lens and extension tubes, I captured image B. A small sliver of the subject is sharp, but not the whole piece of fordite. In order to have sharpness throughout the entire frame, I would need to focus stack.
At first, I tried a stack of 50 images. My Olympus camera has a focus bracketing mode so all I do is focus on the closest part of the fordite and program the camera for 50 images at a small increment of focus bracketing. The camera then captures 50 raw images changing the focus with small increments from front to back. After looking at image 50, the farthest part of the fordite was still blurry, so I needed more photos in my stack. I tried again, this time with 125 focus bracketing images. When I reviewed the photos, at image 118, I had the sharpness I needed. Next step was to focus stack the 118 images in Helicon Focus. Helicon is amazingly easy to use. After selecting the images in Lightroom, I export to Helicon and press the render button. Helicon does the rest. The last image is the final image of 118 focus stacked images.
A few tips on focus stacking:
- Mark the start of a focus stack by capturing a single image of your hand, or other random subject otherwise if you capture several stacks, it will be hard to identify the start and stop of the stack otherwise.
- Use a tripod and shutter release to minimize camera shake. Photoshop CC offers focus stacking but it is more complicated than Helicon Focus.
Benefits of Photographing Alone
Not long ago, I spent a morning in Sedona photographing fall colors. Whenever I travel alone, I do check in with my husband at the start and end of my trip. Checking in with him is more for my benefit; knowing someone is aware of my location makes me feel better. My husband is very optimistic that I will be safe regardless. Photographing alone does require discipline, after all, hitting snooze on the early alarm is tempting, after all, no one is meeting up with me. But I stayed disciplined and left before dark to drive to Westfork in Oak Creek Canyon.
When I find a scene that interests me, I love working the scene for a while. Constantly challenging myself and looking for better angles or compositions. If there were people around me, they would hear me talk to myself saying things like, “what if I used that rock as foreground…” And then adjust my composition. Walking along the quiet path was relaxing and I didn’t feel a pressure in the world. I worked each composition for as long as I wanted with no time restrictions of leaving. I hiked up the side of the canyon along a small trail with awesome fall colors and scrambled down low when I found mushrooms. It was a fun and rewarding day. Sometimes, creativity is sparked just by shooting alone.
Creating water drop collisions keeps me entertained for hours. For the last year, I have been very busy completing and publishing the book, The Art of Macro Photography and my drip kit was neglected. So, I blocked a few hours and went to work in my make shift studio (spare bedroom). I kept the setup simple and started with single drops of water. I didn’t use any additives, just wanted to practice making drops and fine tune the timing of the flashes. After a successful single drop, I added the second drop.
In all the time I have been shooting water drop collisions, I’ve never seen the second drop hit next to the original drop as you can see in the image to the right. After several minutes problem solving, I tapped the valve and all subsequent drops collided. Why does this entertain me for hours? I love the challenge of focusing sharp and the varied final images. With a small change on timing of the flashes, I can achieve several different looks. The last image is of my setup for this series.
Stay tuned for more images next week!
I’ll be honest, my trip to Michigan didn’t go exactly as planned. At the last minute, Rod had to cancel and I was ill prepared for a 2-week solo trip. You would think after a solo 10-week trip on the Pacific Coast, 2-weeks would be a cinch. It wasn’t. The Pacific Coast trip was planned out months in advance with extensive research and plotting of locations. For this trip, I scrambled to research all I could the night before each destination with limited phone service or Wi-Fi. After my first week in Munising photographing waterfalls and attending a workshop, I drove east to Grand Marais and then spent five days at a cabin in Manistee, Michigan. I learned to enjoy time alone and struggled a bit too.
Grand Marais is a small community of about 400 residents and the only place to eat dinner after Labor Day was at the local Brewery. I dined on their famous whitefish dinner and chatted with a few locals. This Lake Superior town was cold, with a high in the 50’s and strong winds. I walked along Agate Beach looking for agates until my hands froze from the moist air and wind. With my pretty rocks, I returned to my B&B to research the next day’s photo destinations. In the morning, the B&B provided a family style breakfast with all the guests and I really enjoyed conversing with someone other than myself. I spent the morning photographing Sable Falls, Sable Dunes and hiking to a beach on Lake Superior before leaving the Grand Marais area for Manistee.
Lucky for me, my cousin Andy has a cabin in Manistee overlooking Lake Michigan. The five days in this small community with beautiful beach views and a historic downtown was peaceful. The cabin is a 15-minute drive south of Manistee in a small neighborhood of mostly summer residences and is a bit secluded, so it took me a few days to feel comfortable returning after dark. The highlight of his cabin is the view of Lake Michigan. The lake is a 100-foot drop from the cabin down a steep sand dune. I attempted many times to get to his beach, but only made it ½ way. I feared I wouldn’t be able to make it back up and was afraid of being stuck down there. The view was great from halfway down too!
One evening the clouds broke so I drove to the 5th Avenue Beach to capture sunset. I barely made it. I ran along the beach with my tripod looking for foreground subjects. After sunset, I sat in the parking lot to watch the bi-monthly Mirrorless Minutes Podcast on YouTube. The host, Jamie MacDonald is entertaining and after spending a few days on his Meetup in Munising, MI, I enjoyed the image share of our workshop. After dark, I went downtown to photograph Manistee’s historic buildings including the Vogue Theatre. It was quiet and dark and I took joy in capturing the brilliant lights of the theatre.
Ludington is a town south of Manistee with a large state park and Big Sable Point Lighthouse. Getting to the lighthouse required a 4-mile round trip hike that was relatively flat until I climbed a sand dune to capture a better angle of the lighthouse. Before I returned to my car the winds picked up. So, I made my next stop Stearns Park in Ludington to photograph choppy waves hitting the pier and river light.
It was easy to keep myself entertained during the day, but at night the woods around the cabin were dark and I felt very isolated. I spent more time than normal on the computer processing photos and reading a book I purchased in town. At the end of the 5 days, I headed south to South Haven to visit family.
Several of my family members live in South Haven. Visiting this town where my parents went to high school has always been a special place. Now overrun by the tourism industry, it doesn’t hold the same memories for my parents, but I enjoy it nonetheless. Normally, I visit Sherman Dairy and Crane’s Orchard but I spent more time relaxing with my Aunt Lee instead. I did have the opportunity to visit Fenn Valley Vineyards with my cousins though! The only photos I captured in South Haven were for my aunt. She owns a rental cottage and needed a few new images. It was fun watching her straighten every crease in the curtains and fluff every pillow to capture the perfect image.
Before I left, we placed the new images in her brochure too. If you find yourself travelling to South Haven, check out The Retreat at Belvedere Beach! https://www.retreatatbelvederebeach.com/
For the Photogs!
Mushrooms are everywhere in the Upper Peninsula. I see some varieties in Flagstaff, but we don’t have the same moisture as Michigan, so there are far more mushrooms and fungi everywhere. While at Wagner Falls, I spotted this mushroom. I enjoyed photographing it so much, I went back on day two to perfect my composition. Here is an image of the shooting scenario and the finished image.
Waterfalls of Michigan
Three days into my Michigan trip, I received a FedEx package from a good friend with a Waterfalls of Michigan book. A guide to more than 130 waterfalls in the Great Lake State. Of these 130 waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan there is only one in the lower peninsula, how will I photograph them all? Well, I am sure I won’t, but I will enjoy the ones I get to. For my two weeks in Michigan, I am spending a week in the Upper Peninsula, this is new territory for me and I love it. I rented a small AirBnB apartment in Munising and have six waterfalls within five miles! Originally, this trip was designed to be with my husband but last-minute changes didn’t allow it. So, I am off solo again travelling through the state where I was born in search of water images. I selected two waterfalls a day to
At Munising Falls yesterday, a sweet retired man said, “You look like a professional, can you help me? When I view my photos, how do I delete one?” Not that he really needs a professional photographer to answer that question, but I helped him with that and a few more questions on his digital camera. Then, I hiked 2.5 miles round trip to Chapel Falls. I think I stopped every 50 yards to photograph all forms of fungi. My macro lens got a great workout. Even other hikers stopped me and said, “I saw you photographing fungi on the way to the falls. Did you see these yellow mushrooms?” Michiganders are such nice people! He directed me to the yellow mushrooms and I spent 30-minutes capturing images with my tripod up as low to the ground as possible.
Today I drove to Wagner Falls, two miles from my apartment. There was one car when I arrived and they left soon thereafter. I scooted under the deck to get a few images from the rivers edge as well. Although it was raining, it is more on the misty spectrum than pouring; much preferred for photography. Tomorrow, I start a meetup through Olympus Mirrorless Adventures and we will photograph six more waterfalls in the area. I can’t wait!
For the Photogs:
So, what does it take to capture a “milky water” waterfall photo? Here are a few pointers:
- Do your research. Find out the direction the waterfall faces. If it is in direct sunlight, go early or late in the day so the sun won’t be on the waterfall. In Northern Michigan, the sky is graced with clouds frequently, so sun is not an issue.
- Gear. In addition to your camera and len(s), don’t forget a tripod. The milky water is captured by using slow shutter speeds and a sturdy tripod is a must. Last, bring a circular polarizing filter and neutral density filter or get a Singh-Ray Bryan Hansel Waterfall Polarizer (combines polarization with neutral density in one filter).
- Try all angles. Some waterfalls have viewing decks, others are best viewed at the river’s edge. Regardless, look at all the angles. When I went to Munising Falls, there was the main accessible path then two paths that branched off. The path to the left stepped up 30 stairs and only 1/3 of the viewers when up to see that angle. The path to the right stepped up 100 stairs and had the best view of all! I had this view to myself for a long time, most visitors did not climb these stairs. Be careful if you are on a viewing deck any foot traffic on the deck will result in vibrations that move your camera.
- Take your time. When other visitors are at waterfalls also, I make a point of setting up my camera, tripod and filters in the background. When the crowd thins down, I step forward, reframe my shot and capture several images at different focal lengths and different orientations (horizontal & vertical). Then I step back again and review. I make sure all the other visitors have a chance at a good image too. I often take a moment and think to myself on what else I can do to make a better image. Then do that something different. I just keep shooting. That is the advantage of travelling alone.
Taking photos on a family trip can be difficult. Fortunately, my husband and children are artistic and enjoy nature themselves. I travel alone specifically for photography but for family trips, I employ a few strategies to make photography possible. On a recent family trip to Telluride, CO for the Imogene Pass Run, I applied these three tips and the result was a win-win for all!
Tip #1 – Don’t plan to photograph everything
After all, it is a family trip and when you are taking photos you are not engaged with the family. The Imogene Pass Run is a 17-mile run over Imogene Pass from Ouray, CO to Telluride, CO. These Rocky Mountains are stunning and the aspen trees had a hint of gold as they started their fall change. On race day, I had a schedule to follow but while waiting for runners to pass, I practiced “mental photography.” I scout where ever I go, knowing I can always come back in the future. At the start of the race, I hiked ½ mile onto the course to capture the runners and discovered Box Canyon. This canyon is huge with granite walls and a waterfall. I didn’t have my tripod, so, Box Canyon is now on my “to-do” list. I did
capture fun photos of the race both from the start and the finish.
Tip #2 – Divide and conquer
When the race was over, Austin was ready for a nap and I was ready for photography. So, my husband and I hiked up to Bear Creek Falls south of Telluride. This 2-mile hike offered scenic views of the rugged cliffs and the waterfall was spectacular. It was late in the day so we didn’t have as much time as I wanted so, I added it to my “to-do” list.
Tip #3 – Involve the family
Prior to the trip we discussed what to do the day after the race. Our son loves driving to Silverton so we added that to our plan. We also planned on finding a few spots with water for me to photograph. Austin did the research and took us to hot springs, mountain lakes, and waterfalls. At each stop, we all went exploring; me with my camera/tripod and them with iPhone’s.
The trip was a success. I didn’t capture the same number of photos if I had been alone, but it was a great compromise.
Spokane is a city I visit often, after all, my sister lives here. I arrived a few days early from my big trip in need of people to talk to, a place to call home and to cheer her on in her 1.2 mile open water swim at Coeur d’Alene Lake. The first three days in Spokane were relaxing as I caught up on photos, played ukulele with my nephew (him on guitar) and became addicted to Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu. I guess I should binge all the seasons before I go home since I don’t have Hulu?
Back to Work
When the weekday rolled around and everyone went to work, so did I. I spent hours photographing this beautiful river city. I went hiking in Coeur d’Alene with a friend from my days as a high school teacher but the smoke from summer fires around the state made landscape photography difficult. Most of my photographs so far are from the downtown area including Riverfront Park, Spokane Falls and downtown neon lights.
When my sister went downtown with me to photograph neon, I was in the middle of the street to capture an image of the street lights. She told me the road was closed to traffic. Well, when the bus came around the corner at me I realized she was wrong! I got the shot then cleared out of his path quickly.
Even though I have been to Spokane before, I haven’t always photographed it. So, I went to Google like I do in most cities. My sister drove me around to areas she thought would be strong subjects and then I added a few from my Internet searching. These scouting times are easily done in midday sun. I have one last morning to capture images and I can’t wait to go to High Bridge Park and Manito Gardens.
For the Photogs!
When I am out taking photos, I love to look for textures and colors. That is what prompted this photo. Part of Spokane’s Upper Falls this riffle stood out to me from the opposing textures and color. I was on a bridge looking down at the water and used my 40-150mm lens. If you take photos off a bridge, watch for other pedestrians or runners. Every time one would cross the bridge, the bridge would shake. I waited until they cleared the bridge and stood very still myself when I took the shot. Like all my water images recently, I also used the Singh-Ray Waterfall Polarizer, Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 40-150mm, ISO 200, f/11, .6 sec.
One last fun story from my trip. Throughout my trip I have spent many hours practicing the ukulele. Since I can now change chords quick enough to play a tune, I decided to practice on my last night while I waited for sunset. Normally, I practice when campers around me are away. As soon as I tuned the uke, my neighbor came out asking if I was a musician. Well, that is not what I would call my playing to be and I don’t sing. Well, he and his wife are musicians and they asked me to play with them. So, we had a jam session with a guitar, autoharp, concertina and my uke. Lauren traded off on the guitar and concertina (like an accordian), Shery played the autoharp. Good thing Lauren would tell me when to change chords. We played two songs and Lauren sang, he also kept the chord changes simple for me. Then, the fog settled around James Island and the sun began to set and I ran off to photograph my last sunset on the Washington Coast for now.
Enjoy this image from La Push, Washington. Oh, and one of the best meals from the entire trip was here in La Push at Rivers End Restaurant. I ate the Seafood Louie salad with shrimp, crab and smoked salmon along with a cup of clam chowder – delish. Excellent finish to an excellent trip!
My last days on the Washington Coast were at Kalaloch in the Olympic National Park and La Push just outside of the park on the Quileute Reservation. When I arrived at Kalaloch, I was eager to visit the Hoh Rainforest. Our family visited 20 years ago and it was spectacular. Of course, August is a dry month for the Hoh so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t expect to find 83-degree Fahrenheit temperatures and sunny skies. It was so dry all the ferns were covered with dirt and parking was almost impossible with the influx of visitors. I made a new plan.
The next day, I woke up early and drove to Lake Crescent in the Olympic National Park to photograph Marymere Falls before the sun came over the treetops. This was an almost 2-hour drive and it was worth it. Walking to the falls a fawn and doe greeted me on the path. They were within 10-feet and didn’t run off. I enjoyed the moment instead of grabbing the camera. Even when my foot slipped in the water, I just laughed. Luckily, I had dry shoes in the car. After the falls I went sightseeing in Forks and La Push – don’t blink or you might miss them! La Push was my next destination, so I was happy scouting the area. I walked on the
beaches and watched the fog banks come and go.
While driving back to Kalaloch, I thought about this trip from the first night in Tehachapi, CA to this point with only one last night in La Push remaining. It has been an amazing journey and as my stepmom said, “Empowering.” I can not agree more. Even though my seven-week (49 day) solo journey is complete, my sabbatical is just beginning. On August 20, 2018, I will not report to work at NAU but instead Boston with my sister. I will continue to blog about my travels and photo challenges as I continue to photograph water and waterfalls.
Things I learned:
How to build a fire with wet wood, thank you Firestarter.
- Hiking alone is empowering and I don’t need to hyperventilate.
- My only limits are when I limit myself
- My husband is still my best friend.
- Family still comes first and my future trips won’t be for this long away from them.
Things I will miss:
- Doing what I want when I want. I only ate when I was hungry and didn’t plan for the next meal. Some meals were cheese and crackers, others more elaborate.
- Taking naps when I’m tired.
- The open road and all it offers. Many people asked me why I wasn’t traveling out of the country on sabbatical and I thought there are so many places near home I haven’t seen or photographed.
- Being popular at campgrounds with the “cool teardrop.”
What I look forward to now:
Showering without wearing flipflops and taking showers without hitting the button to reset my 30-seconds of water.
- Changing clothes standing up instead of in a W5’ x L8’ x H3.5’ bedroom. And just being in a room larger than this if it is cold outside!
- Not having to plan for charging camera batteries/laptop in the car when I drove (not all campgrounds had power).
- Washing dishes in a sink and/or dishwasher.
- Not buying ice every 4-5 days.
- The remainder of the year to continue photographing water, studying imagery, reading, learning new photo techniques and teaching workshops.
- Learning new strumming patterns on the ukulele and a few new songs. I almost memorized the ones in my book.
- Eating Mexican Food.
- Sorting my photos to find the ones I overlooked!
Tomorrow morning, I drive approximately eight hours to Spokane. Tonight, I will eat out at the only restaurant in La Push!