My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Turning a weakness into a strength

After my last post, where I decided to go over to the dark side and begin doing some post-processing of some of my photos, something hit me as I was lining up a shot.

It’s true that even the best digital cameras on the market today do not have the ability to record exactly what our eyes see. Not only can our eyes see a wider range of light to dark than a camera’s sensor, our eyes adjust to changes in light so quickly that we don’t even realize that’s whats happening.

I had finished shooting a series of photos to use in the Photomatix software that I downloaded to test, and as I was walking past a small maple tree that has already turned to its fall colors, it hit me. I use the “weakness” of the camera’s sensor someΒ the time as a strength!

I never had thought of it that way before, but it’s true. Whenever I can, I’ll line up a flower or other subject so that there’s deep shade in the background. Since the camera’s sensor can’t handle the dynamic range of the scene the way I line it up, the background becomes very dark, almost black.

I know that I have better examples if I were to go back through my photos, but here are the ones from the past week.

Unidentified white flowers

Unidentified white flowers

Unidentified white flowers

Unidentified white flowers

Dame's rocket and goldenrod

Dame’s rocket and goldenrod

Woodland sunflower?

Woodland sunflower?

By lining up the shots the way that I do, it removes any distractions from the background, at least I hope that it does. πŸ˜‰

But, back to the maple tree that started this. Here’s the shot from a few weeks ago that I took as a test of the 10-18 mm lens.

Maple tree

Maple tree

And here’s the shot from the other day, but taken at a different angle to get a darker background.

Maple tree in fall colors

Maple tree in fall colors

I had even waited several days for the shot of the tree against a blue sky to get the best color from the leaves on the tree, but using an even darker green background made the leaves “pop” even more.

Of course, itΒ works the other way at times.

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

That shot would have been so much better with blue sky as a background, rather than the haze that there was on that day. But, when I’m so close to a vulture in flight that I don’t have to crop, I’m going to shoot it no matter what the weather is. πŸ˜‰

Here are the rest of the photos from this past week. I’ll start with this photo of the back of a smooth ox-eye sunflower, I’m waiting until there’s a bright blue sky for a background before I shoot the face.

Smooth ox-eye sunflower

Smooth ox-eye sunflower

This was a test that didn’t quite work, using a flash and a long exposure on moving water. I guess that the camera moved a little as I was using a fence rail to hold the camera stationary. But, it did show me the potential for future photos that I have in mind.

mini waterfall

mini waterfall

I have a hard enough time trying to ID birds, plants are impossible for me. There are plants that look exactly the same growing in the park, but the flowers are slightly different as you can see here.

Downy or great blue lobelia?

Downy or great blue lobelia?

Downy or great blue lobelia?

Downy or great blue lobelia?

Some of the plants have flowers with more white showing than some of the other plants. I’ve tried looking these up to nail down the ID, but I hit brick walls online. According to the USDA range map on their website, downy lobelia doesn’t grow in Michigan, yet that’s the closest match that I could come up with for the plants with more white showing. The flowers that are almost totally blue come close to matching great blue lobelia, but at this point, I’m lost. I don’t know if all the plants are the same species with just variations, or if they are two different species.

These are a bit easier, a bumblebee.

Bumblebee

Bumblebee

I noticed a flock of crows feeding in the lot that was cleared earlier this year. As crows often do, one is acting as a lookout while the rest of the flock forages. However, most of the time the lookout selects a perch a little higher up than this.

American crows

American crows

I zoomed in for the next two.

American crow

American crow

American crow

American crow

Also in the cleared lot, morning glories are springing up all over the place.

Morning glory

Morning glory

Morning glory

Morning glory

Morning glory

Morning glory

If I do start post-processing my images, I would probably attempt to remove the white litter that detracts from this next photo.

Turkey

Turkey

Another turkey came along to block the litter from view, but by then, it was too late, the first turkey had moved, ruining the way that the light accentuated the colors of its feathers..

Turkey

Turkey

Here’s a juvenile song sparrow “hiding” from me. It has a lot to learn about hiding. πŸ˜‰

Juvenile song sparrow

Juvenile song sparrow

On a miserable rainy day I spotted these aphids, I went back the next day to get a good macro photo, but they were gone. The rain hadn’t started falling when I shot this one, but it was too dark to do a macro, and it was sprinkling, so I didn’t want to expose my flash or other gear to the rain that I knew was coming.

Aphids

Aphids

With even a little sun, my macro photos are getting better.

Unidentified beetle

Unidentified beetle

I don’t know if this next flower is a common mallow, a hibiscus, or a hybrid, but I shot it with the 10-18 mm lens to get it all in focus.

Common mallow or hibiscus?

Common mallow or hibiscus?

Common mallow or hibiscus?

Common mallow or hibiscus?

I liked the color combination of this next one.

Spotted knapweed and goldenrod

Spotted knapweed and goldenrod

I’m terrible at identifying butterflies also.

Unidentified butterfly

Unidentified butterfly

Here’s another HDR test taken on the same day as the aphids.

HDR Test in the rain

HDR Test in the rain

I think that I’m getting better at these, I watched another video on the process that helped a lot. The second video contradicts almost everything in the first one, but that’s photography for you. Every expert has their own way of doing things and tries to tell you that their way is the only way, when you’re better off using bits and pieces from all the experts.

The first expert said that all you ever need is three images bracketed at plus and minus two stops. The second expert had a lengthy explanation of how to expose the images and how many that are needed for a scene. I used four images for that last one, and it’s the most natural looking one that I have done so far.

An eastern phoebe, just because I can. πŸ˜‰

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

I shot this next series using the flash because it was rather dark and gloomy at the time.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

An extra benefit of using the flash, a stop action type of photo. πŸ˜‰

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

I know, the goldenrod is overexposed, but that seems to be the style these days. I watched a video on macro photography, and while I learned from it, I didn’t care for that expert’s style. He blew out the background of most of his images, whereas I typically go for a high contrast shot with the background underexposed. However, I do kind of like these, even though they aren’t my typical style.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

One without the flash, but the wind blew the goldenrod right in front of the butterfly’s head and it took off before I could shoot another.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

I don’t know if these two hawks are Bertha and Bruiser, I haven’t seen them for a while. These two where too far away from me for me to tell for sure.

Red-tailed hawks

Red-tailed hawks

Red-tailed hawks

Red-tailed hawks

I was going to test to see if I’d give a squirrel red-eye with the flash, but for the first and only time, the flash didn’t fire when I wanted it to. But, the squirrel is so cute that I’ll throw in the photo anyway.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

It’s funny, all summer long I tried to get close-ups of chipping sparrows, and they refused to let me get close. Now that fall is here, they’re everywhere and let me photograph them.

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

Last but not least, another morning-glory, only because WordPress put it here rather than with the other ones.

Morning glory

Morning glory

Well, that’s all I have to say for now, other than that I’ve been learning a lot from the videos I’ve been watching online. Maybe the most important thing is that one should be wary of experts who say “always” or “only” often. Every situation is different, that’s why we have so many buttons and dials on a modern camera. πŸ˜‰

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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26 responses

  1. Have to say it… I’m impressed with your progress in the dark side. πŸ˜€

    September 2, 2014 at 12:44 am

    • Thanks! I’m trying to get it down for when the leaves begin to turn color and I’ll be shooting landscapes for real.

      September 2, 2014 at 12:47 am

  2. What a splendid and varied array of shots. I liked the butterfly the best, so clever and also so beautiful.

    September 2, 2014 at 3:41 am

    • Thank you Susan! It’s always good to step out of one’s comfort zone from time to time, which is how I got the butterfly.

      September 2, 2014 at 9:05 am

  3. I love your description of the process of getting used to a new piece of equipment or strategy. It takes a lot of experimenting and ‘playing’ to really own it. Which of course is both the challenge and the fun of it!! Love to see the variety of shots!

    September 2, 2014 at 4:52 am

    • Thank you Judy! So many people look for the Holy Grail of equipment or software, something that will turn them into great photographers instantly. But, it doesn’t work like that, you have to learn how to use even the best cameras, lenses, and software.

      September 2, 2014 at 9:08 am

  4. Your white flowers look like Japanese knotweed, but I’m not sure about the lobelia. As you are finding out, there are many. Some are tiny and some are quite big, but great blue lobelia is the biggest and is said to look like a blue cardinal flower, so size might help with the ID.
    The hibiscus looks like a rose of Sharon, which is in the hibiscus family and which always bloom at this time of year. Others in the family like mallow and hollyhocks bloom earlier.
    I’ve never tried putting several shots together to make one. I’m not even sure you can do that in Lightroom, but it seems like it would be a lot of work. You must have to have the camera in exactly the same spot for each shot. It seems like even a tiny movement would blow the shot.
    I like that squirrel. He looks like he was hoping for a handout!

    September 2, 2014 at 6:33 am

    • Thank you Allen!

      The lobelia can’t be great blue if they are the size of cardinal flowers, the ones I see are much smaller, just over an inch across.

      I thought that I knew what rose of Sharon looked like, my ex and I grew several, but the more I try to ID plants, the less I know. πŸ˜‰

      Using a tripod works best for multiple photo HDR, but most of the software comes with an alignment feature to make up for camera movement. I’ve used either the tripod or something else solid to rest the camera on so far, so alignment hasn’t been an issue. I’m not sure if Lightroom will do a HDR, I know that Photoshop will, but that the pros don’t use it, as it isn’t as good as Photomatix. The pro version of Photomatix software works as a plug-in in Lightroom, you can select the images in Lightroom, send them to Photomatix, and it will do its thing, with the final image loaded into Lightroom for more tweaking. There’s a B & H tutorial video on exactly that, which explains it well. If you’re interested, I can send you the link.

      September 2, 2014 at 9:30 am

      • Sure Jerry, send it along. I’ve never heard much about that software, but I like Lightroom so if it’s compatible that would be great.

        September 2, 2014 at 6:23 pm

      • No problem, there’s lots of good tips beside the HDR part. http://youtu.be/NeG9Wm0-yXw

        September 3, 2014 at 2:03 am

  5. Scary to see the maple in full fall colors – haven’t witnessed that myself yet, although we’re heading to the UP, where I’m sure it will be commonplace. Love the way that the throats of morning glory light up. Beautiful capture.

    September 2, 2014 at 7:23 am

    • Thanks Judy! I was in the UP the last week of September last year, and along the coasts, there were few trees turning color at that time. Some one else went up a week later, and nailed the autumn colors. But, it will be beautiful up there whether the leaves have turned or not, enjoy!

      You know that I cheated on the morning glories, don’t you? I used the flash turned way down low to light up their throats since they’re white.

      September 2, 2014 at 9:12 am

  6. Phoenix Tears Healed

    Hi πŸ™‚ I do understand what you mean when you consider using technical aids to enhance photo’s; but as I read your post today something came to mind; and it’s why I follow your bird blog rather than some others πŸ™‚ I look at the eyes and stances of the birds; yes there are many techniques in photography, most yes way over my head; but the one that comes across most is how we feel about our subject, and how they feel about us; sorry if that sounds odd or gooey, I may not be explaining it very well, but the genuine natural love of the animals and birds we take pictures of, comes through in the photo’s more than any effect we could use; I love your bird pictures, because all this comes through πŸ™‚

    September 2, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    • Thank you very much for the kind words! Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved critters and they seem to love me, for they allow me to get closer to them than they do most other people. That makes getting good photos that much easier, plus, I generally wait for the birds to pose for me. Since I’m outside almost every day, that’s easy for me to do. I think that at least some of the birds begin to recognize me on sight because I do walk the same place every day during the week. They become friends that I can also recognize by sight.

      September 2, 2014 at 2:19 pm

      • Phoenix Tears Healed

        and it soooo comes across in your photo’s it really does; love, the one thing no-one can fake and no-one can mistake πŸ™‚

        September 2, 2014 at 2:21 pm

  7. The photo with the ants on the leaves is the best of the bunch. I really like that one.

    September 2, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    • Thank you, glad you liked it.

      September 2, 2014 at 2:55 pm

  8. Beautiful shots, love the wild turkey!

    September 2, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    • Thank you Michael!

      September 3, 2014 at 2:04 am

  9. That orange and black beetle is lovely and so is the phoebe. I would have said that the pink flower is a hibiscus but what do I know! I wouldn’t normally disagree with Alan.

    September 2, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    • Thanks Clare! Unless I’m mistaken, a rose of Sharon is a species of hibiscus.

      September 3, 2014 at 2:05 am

      • Confusion reigns! What we call Rose of Sharon is a Hypericum and is yellow.

        September 3, 2014 at 9:50 am

  10. Once again I stand back in admiration for your hard work and concentration on getting the best out of your equipment. I am a great enthusiast for dark backgrounds behind flowers as it brings out the colours.

    September 2, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    • Thanks Tom! I’ll keep plugging away at it, and pass on anything that I learn.

      September 3, 2014 at 2:22 am

  11. The monarch shots were really great but I think my favorites are the dark blue/purple morning glories. The crow perched on the survey stick made me laugh. I admire your tenacity and determination to learn every aspect of your equipment and now even the post-processing. You set a great example for the rest of us.

    September 3, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    • Thanks Amy! I have an advantage over most people, I have no life, so I can spend a lot of time on photography. πŸ˜‰

      September 4, 2014 at 3:42 am