Friday, July 21, 2017

Lake Panorama 4th of July Fire in the Sky - 17 Edition

Equipment Used: Nikon D750, Tokina 28-70mm f2.8 AT-X Lense, VanGuard Abel Plus 363CT Tripod, Viltrox Remote Control, Capture NX-D, Lightroom & Photoshop CC

Lake Panoramas 4th of July fireworks were enjoyed by boaters and other spectators a few days earlier then the 4th since it fell on a Tuesday this year.  That Saturday night, I took a break from a work at the restaurant and drove down to the beach to capture the firework bursts over the boats.

With a week left before I had to return the Tokina lense, I tested it out shooting fireworks by placing it on the D750 and mounting the rig on the VanGuard tripod. I discovered that the location of the focus ring that I had used for taking milky way images didn’t provide sharp images of the fireworks so I had to do some adjusting. I shot in RAW using manual mode with the shutter speed set on bulb and aperture f7.1.  ISO ranged from as low as 100 to a high of 3200. The Viltrox remote was used to trigger the camera and I held it down between 8 to 20 seconds to capture these fireworks.

To process the images, the majority of the time I used Lightroom and adjusted the white balance to daylight as my first step. Next came adjustments to clarity, vibrance, saturation, noise reduction and dehaze sliders. In the HSL tab, I used the color specific saturation sliders to bump up the saturation of the certain colors of the firework bursts. Graduated filter tool was used on the sky and firework burst part of the image as well. Finally I used the adjustment brush to lighten the bottom area of the image so the water and boats were visible.

The last part of processing used Photoshop with the patch and clone tools to get rid of unwanted objects on these images. This included a buoy in the center of the boats and a cell phone tower along the tree line. A  brightness/contrast layer mask was used to fine tune the look of the sky and fireworks to put the final touches on the images.

The firework show was a great display over the surrounding scence of water and boats with hundreds of people watching the show. 

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Templeton Country Crib & Barn under Cumulus Clouds

Equipment Used: Nikon D750, Tokina 24-70mm f2.8 AT-X Lense, Pro Optic Polarizer Filter, Capture NX-D, Lightroom & Photoshop CC

Beautiful cumulus clouds floated through the sky on two afternoons during June that I was able to get out and capture the Templeton corn crib and barn at a nearby corn field. With bright white clouds in the blue sky and the red buildings plus the green corn, I had a scene that had plenty of color.

I put the Tokina 24-70mm lense on my D750 and shot hand held while walking around the corn field to get different angles of the scene. The second afternoon I shot I put a polarizing filter on the lense that improved the contrast of the clouds and sky. Shooting at ISO 100 – 320, my aperture was f7.1 and because I was in aperture priority mode, the camera did the adjusting of the shutter speed.

I used Capture NX-D and Lightroom CC to process the RAW files on my computer. Using NX-D, I changed the white balance to sunlight and picture control to my custom Nature Landscape setting. If needed, the highlight and shadow slider were also adjusted. In Lightroom, I used the contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks, clarity and vibrance slider to fine tune the color of the corn crib and barn. Because of the shadows on the barn, I did create another image file to further reduce the darkness of the barn.

Using Photoshop CC I used the clone and patch tool to get rid of unwanted objects which in this scene was a wire running between the two buildings. I used layer masks and the brush tool to combine the two differently exposed barns into one. Once again, I used the windmill head brush that I made to put a top to the windmill since it doesn’t have one to complete the look.


With the corn growing fast, my window of capturing this farm scene is probably coming to an end. 

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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Milky Way over Guthrie County Barns - June 17 Edition

Equipment Used: Nikon D750, Tokina 24-70mm f2.8 AT-X lense, VanGuard Abel Plus 363CT tripod, Nikon SB-700 Speedlights, Vello FreeWave LR Flash Triggers, PhotoPills, Lightroom & Photoshop CC

After having success of capturing the Milky Way last summer, my goal for this summer was to capture it more often and to learn from the mistakes that I made last year. One of those mistakes, was not knowing where and when the milky way would be at a shooting location and the best time to capture it.  I solved that problem by getting the PhotoPills app on my cell phone which allowed me to better plan my photo shoots. If the weather cooperated with clear skies, I was out shooting and the dates of June 19, 25 and 26th worked well.

I also tried out the Tokina 24-70mm f2.8 AT-X lense on my D750 and was very pleased with the results over the previous lense I used last summer. I placed my camera on the 363CT Tripod and shot in manual mode. Settings were aperture of f2.8 and ranged the shutter speed from 5 to 13 seconds. ISO ranged from 400 to capture the foreground to 6400 to capture the Milky Way but the majority of the time it was at 3200. On the camera body, I set the self timer to 3 seconds so I could get my finger off the shutter to reduce camera movement. To expose the foreground, I used twin SB-700’s placed on homemade poles and used the Vello FreeWave flash trigger to set them off.

The RAW files from the Nikon D750 were processed using Capture NX-D, Adobe Lightroom CC and finished with PhotoShop CC. These images were the first batch I’ve processed with Lightroom and PhotoShop so I watched some youtube tutorials to learn the new programs. In Lightroom, under the basic editing tab I used contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks, clarity and vibrance sliders. I changed the tone curve to a basic S curve and adjusted the luminance color sliders. Under effects, I used the dehaze slider. To further tweak the core of the milky way, I used the adjustment brush and it’s sliders. The barns and corn cribs were edited in Capture NX-D with adjustments to the white balance, picture control, saturation, contrast and shadow/lightlight slider.

Using PhotoShop CC I used the clone and patch tool to get rid of unwanted objects in the images and developed a liking to the content aware feature of the patch tool. Because I had sometimes different images for the sky than for the barns and cribs, I used layer masks to combine them into one. The windmill at the old farm location didn’t have a top to it so I went to another location and took a picture of the windmill head. Using PS, I was able to take that windmill head and make a brush out of it so I could add it into these images to complete the look.

Star trail images were created using between 50 to 100 different images taken a few seconds apart during a thirty to an hour time frame and combined in StarStaX.  

The first new moon dates of the summer was a great success I believe with what I was able to capture and I gave the Tokina 24-70mm a great test at night. It has been shipped back to the company has new releases from Sigma and Tamron have me interested in those lenses as well. One of the three will find a permanent spot in my camera bag. 

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