My Blog Has a New Home…

The picture above was taken a couple weeks ago. I was making a late night run to the grocery store when I spotted this mirror over the ATM. Obviously this was taken with my beloved G12.

I appreciate those of you who have subscribed to this blog and have been kind enough to leave comments. I love the WordPress community and will miss being here. But this move was definitely called for.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t think the blog would stay here long. At the beginning of the year, I opened an account with SmugMug. This enables me to sell prints and allows for virtually unlimited storage.

And I wanted to have everything under one roof, so to speak. There are various  outfits that will customize your SmugMug site and even integrate it with a WordPress blog. After looking around, I decided to use Photography Blogsites.

What I like about it is that I can customize it just about anyway I want and it automatically syncs my blog with my SmugMug galleries. So I have everything under one umbrella and I can change it as I grow without having to learn code.

I have some new entries and the site is coming along well. Please visit and comment at www.modernzenphotos.com

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After the Macro Shots…

When I was finished shooting the macro shots of the abalone shell that I posted yesterday, I walked outside. I encountered a gorgeous sunset that radiated orange clouds with some purple diffusion.

I still had the 100mm macro lens on my DSLR. I knew if I ran back inside and changed the lens to my 17-40mm, I was probably going to miss the best part of this show. I reached in my pocket for my constant companion, the Canon G12.

And this is why I almost always carry this camera on me. I never want to miss an opportunity to record a beautiful moment. And sunset like this don’t happen all that often…

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Playing With Shells.

Yesterday I wanted to take at least one photo before I left my office/studio for the day. It had been pretty hectic between seeing clients and shooting a video.

My eyes fastened upon an abalone shell. “This should make a great macro shot”, I said to myself.

So I set the shell face down on the top of my laptop carrying case near an open window. It was around sunset on a cloudy day, so I decided to use the 500 watt Tungsten light I had already set up.

A tad underexposed as I did not hit it directly with the light. Instead, I bounced it off the ceiling and diffused it with a white umbrella. I used manual exposure and manual focus with my 100mm 2.8 macro lens.

I wanted to jazz this up a bit. There’s a lot of latent detail in this shot, and more color information to be displayed. So after doing some basic adjustments in Lightroom, I opened it in Photoshop and processed it with Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro 4

I used Detail Extractor, Tonal Contrast, and Cross Processing to really bring out the color and detail. Below is the end result.

It’s kind of intense. It looks sort of like an alien life form’s skull (LOL). The filters also brought out the lattice work on the laptop case, which adds to the effect.

The image at the top was treated the opposite way. I used Color Efex Pro 4, but I wanted to bring out the liquid colors from the inside of the shell. So I applied Classical Soft Focus, Glamour Glow, and Cross processing, The original is shown below.

As you can see, the filters make quite a bit of difference, and for me, a pleasing enhancement of the image. Let me know what you think in the comments section.

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Playing With Flowers.

A few days ago I took some shots of an assorted bouquet of flowers. As I shared on this blog, I learned more about working with natural light, the proper aperture settings, and using manual focus to optimize my results.

I’ve also been learning more about post processing macro images. The image above benefited from proper cropping and making good use of Topaz Detail 2. Below is the original image.

“Dead center is deadly”. The original image suffers from too much immediate symmetry. As soon as the human eye finds symmetry, it wants to move on to something else.

So a lot of times, in working with flower images, it’s good to place the center of the flower in one of the corners and allow the petals to flow into the image, as the image at the top of this post illustrates. It makes for more visual interest.

The color was OK in the original, but nothing spectacular. I also wanted to bring out more of the detail, especially in the center of the flower. So after cropping in Lightroom, I opened it in Photoshop and processed it with Topaz Detail 2.

This plugin has some good presets for different sharpening scenarios, as well as some neat sliders that let me really tweak the image the way I want. In this case, I went through several presets before settling on the Lithography preset.

This, as you can see, is a black and white preset with strong sharpening added. I felt this suited this image really well, as color was not the strong point of the image and the detail could definitely be brought out more.

I really like the way the image came out in post processing. Let me know what you think int the comments section.

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Playing With a Candle.

Late this afternoon I was sitting in my office/studio and itching to play around with my macro lens. It was breezy and very sunny outside, not the best conditions for macro photography.

But one of the things I love about macro is the ability to use everyday objects around me to create art. I noticed this candle burning. I’d been intending to try some candle shots for a while, ¬†and it struck me as something I should do today.

So I set up my tripod and camera with my 100mm 2.8 macro lens, selected f32 as my aperture. I framed my composition and took a shot.

The picture above is the result. I was surprised at the 15 second exposure. The room had sunlight streaming in and I was shooting at ISO 200. I would have expected the shot to have a faster shutter speed under those conditions.

So I decided to try a manual exposure using the same aperture setting. You’re looking at the result below.

This was a six second exposure. Both are good shots. Of course, the shorter exposure is brighter. The second shot has more definition, and is in my opinion, noticeably sharper. This was more of what I wanted.

So for now on I think I’ll be shooting in manual mode more often. I already am manually focusing my macro shots, so going this extra step is not too much more to do, and is actually fun.

I feel more in control of my camera. I don’t have to accept what it deems as appropriate exposure at a given aperture. And it certainly opens up more avenues for creativity. One more shot follows below, this time from a different angle.

I did crop this one a bit to show it closer up. But the main thing I did to change the composition was to re-position the tripod. Moving around and looking at different angles is always a good idea whenever possible. Experimenting and learning from the experiments is always fun.

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Macro Meets HDR.

Before I got into macro photography I was into HDR. If you’re not familiar with this, the letters HDR stand for High Dynamic Range. The photographer captures multiple exposures at different setting and combines them to create an image that encompasses the full dynamic range of the scene. Usually anywhere from 3-9 exposures are used.

HDR is commonly used in landscape and architectural photography. It can create a heightened sense of realism, or create dreamy, surrealistic imagery. And a single RAW file can contain enough information to make what some call a pseudo-HDR image.

And this is what you are seeing above. I took a single RAW image that I captured the other day, converted it to an Adobe Digital Negative in Lightroom, exported it to Photoshop CS5, and ran it through Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro to create what you’re viewing above.

I used an Artistic Exteriors preset that I obtained from photographer Jason O’Dell. Below is the original DNG as it was in Lightroom.

I’m sure you can see the difference. Now I could have made a much more dramatic image using this software, but I prefer a more realistic look when I process my images. And you can see how much more color and detail came out of this by processing it this way.

This is something that has intrigued me for a while, using HDR processing on macro images. I wouldn’t pipe everything I that I shoot through it, but you will see some more stuff like this in the near future.

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Learning More About Macro.

I didn’t have much time to shoot or post this weekend. We had visitors from out-of-town that we had to entertain. But on Sunday afternoon I had a powerful experience that expanded my understanding of macro photography.

At one point my companion and I received as a gift a bouquet of flowers, which included Lilies and Roses. Now to tell you the truth, in the past I have been less than enthusiastic about such gifts. I have hay fever, and the smell of the flowers can set it off.

Now for someone who is really getting into macro work, this would seem to be a most unfortunate problem to have. But I really want to learn and do more of this, so I was eager to accept this gift and get to work on creating works of photographic art out of it.

In the back of our townhouse we have an enclosed screen porch. I set the pot of flowers on a wooden folding table and placed my camera on a tripod in front of it. I hoped that the combination of tripod and natural light would enable me to get some great shots.

And it did. I experimented with different aperture settings from f2.8 to f32. I found that I am really best off shooting with maximum depth of field at f32. I was actually getting some blurry backgrounds at f22!

The image above was shot at f32 and processed with Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro 4 and Viveza 2. I was very pleased with the natural light on the back porch. So when I need to stay at home and shoot, I know where I need to be to get the best results. A valuable lesson thus learned.

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