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Why Focus Stack

focus stack of fordite

Cropped version of final Focus Stack. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 60mm + 26mm extension tubes, ISO 400, f/4, 1/50 sec.

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.

Water Drop Collisions

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.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 60mm, ISO 400, f/16, .5 sec.

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!

 

Waterfalls of Michigan

Munising Falls. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/14, 6 sec., Singh Ray Bryan Hansell Waterfall Filter

Waterfalls of Michigan

Munising Falls. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/14, 5 sec., Singh Ray Bryan Hansell Waterfall Filter

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

Chapel Falls. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/11, .8 sec., Singh-Ray Waterfall Filter

photograph.

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.

Yellow Mushroom. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 60mm, ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/3 sec.

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!

iPhone capture of my setup.

For the Photogs:

So, what does it take to capture a “milky water” waterfall photo? Here are a few pointers:

  1. 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.

    Chapel Falls. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/6.3, 1 sec., Singh-Ray Waterfall Filter.

  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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

Hayden Trailhead. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 800, f/4, 1/1600 sec.

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

Austin at the start of the Imogene Pass Run. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 40-150mm, ISO 1600, f/4, 1/500 sec.

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

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 800, f/13, .8 sec., Singh-Ray Waterfall Filter.

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

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 400, f/10, 1/125 sec.

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.

Bubbles. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/160 sec.

Water moving over textured rock. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 400, f/16, 1/8 sec.

Spokane

Spokane Falls

Spokane Falls. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/18, .4 sec., Singh-Ray Waterfall Filter.

Clock tower at Riverfront Park

Clock tower at Riverfront Park. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/16, 25 sec.

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
Spokane Falls

Spokane Falls. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 40-150mm, ISO 200, f/11, .4 sec., Singh-Ray Waterfall Polarizer.

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.

Spokane's Thomas Hammer Coffee Roasters sign

Thomas Hammer Coffee Roasters neon sign. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/13, 2 sec.

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.

Downtown lights

Downtown Spokane Lights. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/9, 2 sec.

For the Photogs!
Spokane Falls

Upper Spokane Falls. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 40-150mm, ISO 200, f/11, .6 sec., Singh-Ray Waterfall Polarizer.

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.

La Push

James Island, La Push. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/8, 1/160 sec., Using high-res mode creating a 50 mp image.

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!

Seafood Louie Salad. iPhone

Back to the Beach

Stacks in the fog

View from Indian Beach, Ecola State Park. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II, 40-150 mm, ISO 200, f/16 @ 1/20 sec.

photo of Amy

On my hike to Crescent Beach.

As soon as I arrived in the Cannon Beach area, I went to Ecola State Park. It was a gorgeous day, wind was blowing and the sun was just breaking through the marine layer. Ecola offers many hiking trails, so I chose the one to Crescent Beach. This 4-mile round trip hike took me through an old-growth forest and to a beautiful beach only accessible by hiking. I returned to this park several times for early morning mist, paddle boarders and low tide. I also visited Hug Point Wayside. Hug Pont was quiet and calm even during the weekday. First light guaranteed minimal people on the beach so that’s when I went. The beach is full of many monoliths similar to the image above from Indian Beach. At low tide I was entranced with lines in the sand instead of the sea stars.

Lines in sand

Lines in Sand. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II, 7-14 mm, ISO 200, f14 @ 1/25 sec., processed in Nik Silver Efex Pro.

Walking along the beach, I spotted a sand dollar. This was quite a find because there have been so many broken ones along the beaches for the past 4 weeks, it was fun to find a complete one. The solitude of the beach and the time to relax has been unforgettable.

Not uncommon for this time of year is a lot of fog and mist. Midday the blue skies appear, but evenings and mornings are gray. This can be a little discouraging, but I knew this coming into the trip so I am making the most of each location. A real problem though: I wish I could overcome craving Mexican food. We eat a lot of Mexican food at home and I’m not sure restaurants in the Pacific Northwest will prepare the best chili relleno.

Campground

Between Seaside and Cannon Beach is Circle Creek RV park, I checked in to spot #10 and parked. I don’t want to brag, but this was my best parking job yet and the trailer was straight too. As I got out of the car I saw #9 on the post. I parked in the wrong spot! Will I ever get this right? So, I moved to my spot and within minutes my neighbors arrived in spot #9. I met Spud in this campground too. Spud is a cat with a harness on a leash. The owners trained him starting at 4 weeks old to wear a harness and he sits by the back door waiting for a harness to go out. He loved being outside with the family at the campground. It sure looked funny though.

Zoo
Haystack Rock

Haystack Rock. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II, 12-100 mm, ISO 400, f/10 @ 1/400 sec.

Did I say zoo? Well, that is synonymous to Seaside. I couldn’t be in the area and not check out the town, so I went on a week day (thankfully), parked, walked to the beach and then left. Seaside is otherwise known as a tourist trap. The downtown area is full of arcades, ice cream shops and the like. Not my kind of place. I checked out Cannon Beach, a cute little town that was nice to walk through early morning before the Corgi Festival started. There were easily 100 Corgi’s on the beach! The crowds, people and Corgi’s don’t inspire me but I did capture my obligatory Haystack Rock photo and then returned to camp to join my neighbors for dinner.

The two “rigs” next to me were travelling together from Seattle. John & Lu, Joe & Cindy welcomed me and we hit it off instantly. Lu and John know how to cook corn on the cob! I spent two evenings eating dinner with them at the campground and it felt like family. Reminded me how much I miss my family. We had a great time chatting, drinking wine and sharing our adventures. They are finishing a 19 day trip and I have 2 weeks remaining on mine but after talking to them about the remainder of my trip, I decided to visit them outside Seattle and then see Snoqualmie Falls. (And possibly another glass of wine…)

Tomorrow I head up to Fort Stevens for my last days in Oregon.

Riders on horseback

Horseback riders on Cannon Beach. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II, 12-100 mm, ISO 400, f/10 @ 1/640 sec.

Locked In

I almost forgot, leaving Barton Park in Portland several days ago I got stuck in the shower. These showers were one-person rooms with a deadbolt on the inside. When I finished showering, I flipped the lever to unlock and the door would not open. It wasn’t the door handle, it was the deadbolt. I tried again and again. Then I started to get nervous. This was one time I didn’t have my phone – after all, why would I need my phone in the shower? After several more attempts, I started beating the door and yelling. A person heard me, but it sounded like they were in another shower. I went back to the lock and slowly rotated the lever to lock it and after an ¼” turn, the door released. I yelled to the person in the other shower that I was free and reminded myself to always carry my phone. The next morning, I heard another person trying to get out of that same shower. I talked them through rotating the lock correctly and she reported the issue to the park hosts.

For the Photogs!
sand dollar

Sand Dollar from Indian Beach

When I returned to camp with my sand dollar, I placed it on mat board to capture the photo. I brought a 16×20 piece of two-sided (black/white) mat board for this occasion. Since it was cloudy, I set the board on my picnic table and started capturing images.

Fighting My Fears

Patrick’s Point

Evening Fog at Patrick’s Point

Some locations are so magical you are drawn to return. That is the case with Patrick’s Point State Park, CA. Being my third or fourth time at this campground I just can’t get enough. When I routed my trip, I intentionally planned a night to stay at this memorable spot. Our family discovered this spot a few years ago when Austin toured Humboldt State University in Arcata. He didn’t choose the school, but we still love the location. The camp sites are great, there are showers and beautiful beach access to Agate Beach. The reward for the steep path is this beautiful beach. Morning and evening fog is common and the agates are plentiful. This year, I came prepared and carried my full pack of lenses ready to shoot anything my heart desired. I started photographing waves. Tide was coming in and the crashing waves were mesmerizing. I spotted two loudly chirping, juvenile peregrine falcons. I have to admit, I wasn’t sure what they were at first, so once I captured a good image, I sent it to a friend to identify (thanks Mary!) What I thought was a mamma bird with the juveniles was really a pair of turkey vultures. The falcons appeared nervous even though they aren’t on the food chain for vultures. One of the vultures did “fly by” very closely and maybe it was to intimidate these young falcons.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When one of the falcons landed on a snag not too far away, I slowly inched closer taking a few shots along the way. I stopped easily 10 times before I feared going any closer. It appeared I made it nervous. It’s head twitched more, it defecated and I knew it would fly off soon. I zoomed my Olympus 40-150mm lens wider to allow room for the wings in the frame and sure enough, it took off. Still using burst mode, I got off four shots that were sharp but it flew toward me FAST and I couldn’t keep up with it’s movement. It was almost dusk, so, I switched back to capture images of the crashing waves. I took several with fast shutter speeds and as it darkened, I switched to slow shutter speeds.

Solo Footprints

The next morning, I returned to the empty beach. Imagine having a beautiful beach to yourself. In the past, I have photographed many banana slugs on my way to the beach, but there were very few that morning. So, I enjoyed waves and the solitude before returning to camp for breakfast and packing to move on up the coast.

Trees of Mystery

Hidden Beach

On many occasions, we have stopped at the tourist attraction, Trees of Mystery in Orick, CA. Mostly we stopped to use the restroom, look at all the touristy things and buy fudge. Never have we toured the trees. And I didn’t this time either. But, I found a great trail to Hidden Beach across the street from the Trees of Mystery. I read about it before my trip and despite the trail feeling secluded, I ventured to the beach. It was a ½ mile hike to the beach on a closed in “rainforesty” trail. I set up my running app so I could follow the distance. This is not a trail I would normally do on my own. But I read many reviews, carried my pepper spray and hiked FAST. After .10 miles, I told myself, “Before long, you will be at .20 miles” Then at .15 miles, I told myself, “only .10 more and you will be halfway.” And that continued until I arrived at the beach, which really took .60 miles! This beach was amazing. Driftwood covered the edges of this pristine beach and there was one other family enjoying the tranquility as well. I spent an hour taking it in and then returned to the teardrop. On the return hike, I only looked at my running app twice. Progress.

Me at Hidden Beach

Realization

Finally, I made it to Oregon! Our family has driven through many of these southern Oregon towns but never had time to stop. So, I stopped at Harris Beach State Park just north of Brookings and spent three days. What a gem. Oregon State Parks are tremendous with clean bathrooms, free showers and great prices. Not to mention gasoline for my car just dropped .60 a gallon when I entered the state. I arrived just in time to check in and parking has been mastered! I backed in superbly to this spot, I took a photo and sent it home! My skills have progressed

Harris Beach State Park

and I back in the trailer like I know what I am doing.

I have come to realize I can’t see or do it all. So, I am focusing on the spots around me and only venturing further off the path if it seems worth it for my study of water or my own personal interests. The beach was .35 miles from my camp spot and I spent a lot of time there. Tidepools and crashing waves kept me very busy. Clouds and fog settled in each night, so I didn’t go out for sunset, but after two weeks in, I have mastered campfire abilities and enjoy the

introspective time to myself.

Beating Fear

At the trailhead of the Shrader Old-Growth Forest

In addition to researching online, I bought the book, The Photographer’s Guide to the Oregon Coast. This book has every (well, maybe not) photogenic spot along the coast from North to South. Of course, I am traveling South to North, so I am reading the book backwards. I read about a great trail 13-miles inland from Gold Beach, just 40 miles from my camp. The Shrader Old-Growth Trail is a 1-mile loop of old-growth Douglas firs, Port Orford cedars, a stream and ferns. It sounded like a great trail and a nice change of pace. So, I went. The anxiety that overcame me at the trailhead was alarming. With not a car in sight for the past 13 miles, I feared the isolated trail. Immediately, I thought of my sister-in-law that hikes avidly and always chooses the trails most frequented. This was not that trail. My heart raced and breathing was difficult. I tried relaxing by photographing a few flowers at the trailhead and walked 25 feet down the trail. I just couldn’t keep going. Fear got the best of me. I returned to camp and my campfire.

Shrader Old Growth Forest

After a lot of soul searching, a new day, and counseling by my husband and sister I am proud to say I returned to the Shrader Old-Growth trail. I told myself, “a 1-mile loop should not be difficult.” I completed the loop and even took a few photos along the way. Of course, I did hear every leaf falling, branch breaking and trickle of water from the stream. But, I finished the hike. It took several hours to feel relieved and proud of my accomplishment. As a matter of fact, at first, I thought I lost 10-years of my life, but now I am ready to take on the next challenge.

Stay tuned for Fourth of July at Humbug Mountain State Park.

Bodega Bay

Edith-E boat

Edith-E. OMDIMII, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1250

After leaving the San Jose area and visiting with family, I drove over the Golden Gate Bridge heading for Bodega Bay. Outside Petaluma, there is a boat on dry land that has seen better days. We stopped by it last year, so I made this my lunch spot. The Edith-E is not any more seaworthy.

When I was young, my parents drove up Highway 1 and I remembered them talking about Bodega Bay. Those memories placed Bodega Bay on my map. Although we have traveled up to the Redwoods several times in my 26 married years, we haven’t driven this stretch of Highway 1. My campground was in Sonoma Coast State Park – Bodega Dunes. Most of the camp spots were individual alcoves. Very cozy. Except for what I am confident are ticks. I found one walking on my arm and it didn’t live another day. Backing in at this campground was successful. I think the practice with my Uncle Ron in the San Jose area did the trick, I’m ready to do it again – tomorrow.

View from Kortum Trail. OMDIMII, 12-100mm, ISO 400, f/16, 1/60

I arrived early afternoon, so as I often do in new towns, I went to the tourist center. This lovely woman has lived here most of her life and was more than willing to highlight “must see” areas on a map for me. The Sonoma Coast State Park includes 16 beaches, some which are only accessible at low tide plus many hiking trails and vistas. I headed out quickly, hiking a few miles along the Kortum trail scouting for a good sunset location. This time of year, it is common for fog/marine layer to settle in morning and night, so I tend to look at shooting early

photo of sunset

Sunset captured with iPhone

evening light as much as sunset. With the sun setting at 8:30pm, I found my spot at 7pm. When the sun finally set, I went to a different pullout to watch. Of course, when the light was spectacular, I pulled out my iPhone for a quick snap. Sometimes, I get so engrossed in capturing the image I forget to enjoy the moment. So, I enjoyed. When I got back to camp, I made a campfire and relaxed.

Shell Beach

Starfish worth falling for! OMDIMII, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/125, 12-100mm

Low tide was at 7:30am at Shell Beach, a wonderful location with a short steep hike to the shoreline. My camera gear included two camera bodies (Olympus OMD1MII and OMD5MII) with my 12-100mm and 60mm macro lenses. I did have more lenses in my pack, but these are my “heavy lifters.” This time, I even took a black matboard with me in case the tide pools were too reflective. The board would be used to shade the pool. As soon as I stepped on the beach I saw a handful of people searching tidepools and heard one say, “There’s a starfish.” I got so excited, I almost ran over there. This was a negative low tide, so more slimy rocks were exposed than normal, so I am sure you are not surprised when I slipped and fell on my back like an upside down turtle. The only damage was to my pride. For the next 2 hours, I photographed starfish. At one point, I saw movement in the rocks, furry movement. It was a momma sea otter and 3 of her young. They were avoiding me, but I got one shot off without moving closer to worry them.

photo of otter

Sea Otter. OMD5MII, 60mm macro, ISO 400, f/7.1, 1/80 sec

After Shell Beach, I took a short drive to Bodega Head. Again, many great trails to hike with stunning views and grabbed fresh halibut tacos from a local restaurant. They were good. The highlight of my day was walking to the beach from my campground. I saw on the map there were several beach access spots, so I went for a look. After hiking .3 miles on a deep sandy trail, seeing a road surprised me. I thought the trail would lead me to the beach. So, I walked the road. There were very few cars and only one other pedestrian on this road. I did confirm that I was heading in the right way to the beach though. Little did I know it would be another .7 miles walking the road before I would arrive at the beach! If I had known that, I might have driven. The beach was worth it and I walked awhile and got my feet wet. All in all, a great day with many hikes and a little down time too. Next blog will be from Oregon.

 

Use the Camera That’s with You!

Red balloon

Don’t get me wrong, I love my full-size camera (Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II) and take it on many adventures. But, every now and then, I get caught without it or am traveling with people that don’t want the hassle of a camera and tripod. So, I use my iPhone in these situations. After purchasing the new iPhone X I was invited to visit the Glendale Glitters Hot Air Balloon Glow with family members and thought it was a great opportunity to “play” with my new iPhone.

We arrived just after dark and after a quick glance, we gravitated to photograph the balloons instead of the 1.5 million LED lights in downtown Glendale. The low light environment was perfect to test the new iPhone, after all, the iPhone has not been great with low light. For the last night of the season, the city had about 20 hot air balloons set up “glowing” throughout the downtown streets. Handholding my iPhone was a perfect solution with the large crowds on the streets.

Details of a hot air balloon

Post Processing

I used the main Apple Camera app since it opens from the home screen without unlocking my phone. I held down the shutter button to capture many burst images. When the pilots illuminated the balloons, it was not a steady fire blaze, so burst mode helped me capture the best image. I had hundreds of images to choose from. When I returned home, I spent 30 minutes sorting out the burst images and was thrilled with the result of these low light images. The iPhone X defaults to HDR mode when exposures are extreme and it worked well on my images. I avoided using HDR mode before, but this photo shoot proved to me new technology is ever changing and improving.

All of my iPhone photos are added to my Lightroom Mobile app on the phone automatically and then transferred to my home computer. When I opened the images on my home computer, I got even more creative. While I was capturing images of the balloons, I kept trying to get more than one balloon lit up. At one point four balloons were in my frame but I could only catch three glowing. Photoshop to the rescue! Since I used burst mode, the images aligned perfectly as two layers in Photoshop and then with a little masking I made the background balloon visible. And voila! I created a composite of four illuminated balloons! The final image  includes removal of the light in the top right hand corner. View the images below to see the transition. Don’t forget, if you don’t take your big camera, use the camera that is with you!  If you are interested in iPhoneography, check out one of my workshops from the workshops page! Happy Shooting.