Archive for August, 2010

Updating Your Software

August 27, 2010

Thousand Island Lake Panoramic

Updating your processing software doesn’t always help everyone. If new features aren’t something you will actually use how can it benefit you? New features should be the factor that helps you decide if you would benefit from upgrading. Over the past Photoshop has created new features that some might say haven’t been worth the cost of the upgrade. You can always find out if it’s worth it to you by using a trail version of most any software out there. You should really watch the tutorials before you do this.

Example: Thanks to Photoshop CS5’s new feature “Content-Aware Fill” I was able to fill in the corners where it would of been difficult to just paint in what the pano merging left out. It could take a long time to paint or clone in white portions of the photograph and not see any brush strokes in a large print. I’m sure glad I didn’t throw away these files. Sometimes you just have to wait 4 years for some help.


Original file waiting for it’s time to shine.
Exposure date & time: 7/13/2006 – 5:31:42 AM

I have used this feature enough to know it’s no stroke of magic and it can’t fix everything but it is an improvement from other similar tools in older versions of photoshop. There are many new features in CS5 that will help with my architectural work.

Panoramic Photography Part II: Advanced Tips

August 19, 2010

By knowing the distance of where infinite depth of field begins for each specific lens you have you establish where to place your foreground and sufficient DOF for you chosen scene. You don't necessarilly need the background tact sharp all the time. Certain subjects that might not be as interesting such as background mountains with out much detail are something I don't worry about being tact sharp. Many photographers have their own opposite view of this. If you are conifident in what you want it doesn't matter.

1)”Establish your subject” and build around it. This would be your foreground, middleground or background, I use them all as main subjects in different compositions. The photograph below is an example of this with the mountain as the main subject and the dunes below as foreground. The photograph in the top of this post has light as the main subject in the grand scenic.

2)”Know how much depth of field you will need.” If you decide to shoot vertically you might need more DOF. If you know what focal length you want to use this will help you decide on turning the camera horizontally or vertically. Sometimes you will want more or less compression between subjects, this is part of how bold or subtle things may look in comparison to eachother.

3)”Don’t worry if your idea isn’t something you know can’t put together now. Shoot it anyway, I shot panoramas before I ever had a clue on how to put them together.” Think ahead! You’re processing skills will always get better and so will editing software as time passes.

A little more on Depth of Field: By knowing the distance of where infinite depth of field begins for each specific lens you have you establish where to place your foreground and sufficient DOF for you chosen scene. You don’t necessarilly need the background tact sharp all the time. Certain subjects that might not be as interesting such as background mountains with out much detail are something I don’t worry about being tact sharp. Many photographers have their own opposite view of this, if you’re posting photos in critique forums and don’t want to hear complaint from other photographers that are not going to buy your photographs then you might consider focus blending to allocate for the loss of DOF. If you are conifident in what you want then it doesn’t matter most perspective photo buyers buy on emotion or have a connection with the place you are showing them.

First image location: Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Second image location: Mesquite Dunes Death Valley

Tuckee Mountain Panorama

I will continue this topic further in a later blog post. Read part I here.

Website: Portfolio
Workshop info: Scenic Photo Workshops
Private or small group workshop info: Learn.
Steve’s Photo Tips and How To Page
Steve’s Landscape Photographer Tools Page

Panoramic Photography Part I: Simple Basics

August 10, 2010

While leading a private workshop I snapped this 3 exposure panoramic while my client had a clear path with out foot prints in front of us besides what was off in the distance. The fleeting light needed to captured quickly so each of the 3 exposures were only seconds apart. In winter the light is gone fast and it can create problems for slow creation of panoramic photographs.

A few simple basics I recommend keeping in mind.

• Use a tripod unless it’s a snapshot to you. There is nothing wrong with handheld snapshots at speeds of double the focal length with added image stabilization down to about 1/125 shutter speed. If you don’t have a panoramic head level the tripod as best you can. If the light is fleeting don’t let it get away, fire a few shots before you set up perfectly.

• Establish a beginning and an end point.

• Make sure you have enough overlap 20-30% is fine unless you go really wide, then you’ll need more. With older stitching software you might need the extra coverage or you’ll start to see gaps in the top and bottom. CS4 & CS5 do a great job stitching at 20-30%.

• Shoot in manual or lock your exposure so that it does not change. (Advanced tip: I will occasionally add more light into a dusk scene where light is changing quickly. You can read more this in part 2.)

• Lock your focus. Be careful not move the focus ring or zoom between moving the camera for each exposure.

• Make sure to set the white balance to something besides auto.

• You don’t always need a foreground or a middleground. I have heard countless photographers say you need a foreground to create depth, that is not true. Some subjects don’t lend themselves to that, it’s best to stay open to change. You don’t want to witness the best light you have ever seen on your favorite mountain but not take a picture because you don’t have a foreground.

• Don’t limit yourself to a horizontal rectangle. A panoramic can be vertical, square or whatever you decide on. You can make a circle for all I care.

Most of these simple tips can be found anywhere on the net, some even copied verbatim. Don’t limit yourself to what I have mentioned here, take the bits and pieces that work for you. You can subscribe to the blog if you feel want to stick around for Part II: Advanced Tips of Panoramic Photography. I don’t blog heavily so you will not be bombarded with emails, this is no daytime talk show.

Some of Steve’s Panoramic Photographs gallery.

Workshop info: Scenic Photo Workshops
Private or small group workshop info: Learn.

About the photograph: While leading a private workshop I snapped this 3 exposure panoramic while my client had a clear path with out foot prints in front of us besides what was off in the distance. This scene with fleeting light needed to be taken quickly so each of the 3 exposures were only seconds apart. In winter the light is gone faster then you think and that can create problems for slow creation of panoramic photographs. With a longer lens I can stay closer to clients when the light is at it’s best. This helps me show examples of what I have created in the field during a workshop without the need to disappear in search of that perfect foreground. Surprisingly enough most students don’t want me attached to the hip but I stick around anyway.

Read part II here

Website: Portfolio
Workshop info: Scenic Photo Workshops
Private or small group workshop info: Learn.
Steve’s Photo Tips and How To Page
Steve’s Landscape Photographer Tools Page

Dunes of the Mojave Desert

August 2, 2010

Mojave Desert Dunes

If someone were to mention dunes in the Mojave Desert, Death Valley’s Mesquite Dunes at Stovepipe Wells would come mind first for some people. The Kelso Dunes might even come up. There are more dunes out there that in lie outside of the National Park and Monument boundaries, you just need to look a little further. With all the dry lakes out there the sand has to blow somewhere.

Dunes in black and white

Some dunes fields are extremely small and others such as what is shown here are significant in size. Many dunes are similiar and usually can be identified with the mountain back drop if there is one.

OHV use in designated wilderness

These dunes are designated wilderness where people may seek desert desolation but I have come across people ignoring the desigated wilderness boundaries with OHV use. I can imagine how dificult it can be trying to protect something out in the middle of nowhere. It would be nice if there were signs posted with violation fee amounts in all parking areas near wilderness areas.

Mojave desert dunes

Frost covered dunes in the Mojave Desert

Frost covers the dunes during winter in the early morning. Sometimes solitude comes with no foot prints.

Moon and dune

If anyone is interested in a private or small group workshop between the late fall and early spring please email me via the contact page on my website.


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