Sunday, November 19, 2017

Harvest Moments in the Field

Equipment Used: Nikon D750, Tamron 24-70mm f2.8 DI VC G2 Lense, Nikon 70-300mm f4-5.6 VR Lense, SB-700 Speedlight, Vanguard Abeo Plus 363CT Tripod, Lightroom & Photoshop CC

The fall is the favorite time of the year for me for a number of reasons and one of the reasons is being in the field harvesting the corn and beans. Big equipment rolling across the fields with beautiful sunsets or sitting underneath the clear night sky, made for a great scene to capture with my camera.

For the night sky images, the D750 was used with the Tamron 24-70mm while the sunsets were captured with the 70-300mm. During the night exposures, aperture was set at f2.8 and ISO ranged from 3200-8000. Shutter speeds ranged from 5 to 20 seconds. Shooting from the tripod, I manual focused on the combine and turned off VR. The SB-700 Speedlight was used for additional light when needed. The self timer was used to trigger the camera. For the sunset images, I used the 70-300mm with an aperture of f6.3 to f9 and ISO of 100-1250.

To edit the images, Lightroom Classic was first used on the RAW files by first using the presets that I’ve developed for landscapes and star images. A little further adjustment to the sliders was made on an individual image basis but the presets were a great start and saved time. Lens correction was made using the catalog of lenses that Lightroom has in their program for distortion and vignetting.

To finalize the images, Photoshop CC was used to clone out unwanted spots in the image using the clone tool or content aware fill tool. If further noise reduction was needed, I applied that in PS. I then straightened and cropped the image if needed. A sharpening layer was then applied as the last step of the process.


With nearly all the fields out in the area, the harvest is almost complete and once again, the scenes didn’t disappointment the farmer and photographer in me. 

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Thursday, November 2, 2017

B.N.S.F. Locomotive in rural Iowa on the Tracks

Equipment Used: Nikon D750, Tamron 24-70mm f2.8 DI VC G2 Lense, SB-700 Speedlights paired with Vello Flash Triggers, Slik Pro 500DX Tripod, Lightroom & Photoshop CC

In the middle of October while out scouting water conditions in local marshes, I noticed a train at the end of the track east of Bayard. I stopped briefly in the morning to check it out and returned that afternoon to capture some sunset images and wait for the stars to come out.

The D750 and the Tamron 24-70mm was the equipment of choice that afternoon and night along with using the Slik tripod. The Slik tripod was used over the VanGuard because the Slik allowed me to get lower to the ground since its center column is shorter. I used manual focus and VR was turned off on the lense. Shooting in RAW, I used aperture priority during sunset and then changed over to manual mode once the stars came out. Aperture ranged from f2.8 to f11 while shutter speeds ranged from 5 to 15 seconds. ISO ranged from 100 during sunset capture to 1600-6400 at dark. I used a pair of SB-700’s to light up the track and train triggered by Vello Flash Triggers.

Lightroom CC was used to edit these images by creating a preset of slider adjustments for the sunset images and then using the star preset I had already made for the night images. A little further adjustments to the sliders were made on an individual image basis but the presets were a great start and saved time. When shooting the images, I did bracket the exposures with -2, 0 & +2 exposure compensation and found myself using the -2 exposed image in Lightroom. The under exposed image allowed the sky to be exposed perfectly and then train was exposed using shadow and exposure sliders in Lightroom.

In Photoshop CC, I first cloned out unwanted spots in the image and corrected a lense flare problem in the star images that was created from the light on the train. The content aware fill tool in PS worked pretty well on the flare problems in the image. I then straightened and cropped the image if the train was not perfectly straight. Using adjustment layer masks, small changes were made to saturation and other sliders.


From spending three hours lying on the side of the railroad track to processing these images, it was a joy to see these turn out like they did. I even got alittle scare when half way through the night, the train engines turned on and I believe no one was inside the locomotive.  I got up off the track pretty quickly when the engines fired up but returned to them when I realized the train wasn’t going to go anywhere. 

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Saturday, October 7, 2017

Astrophotography Image Selected for High Plains Journal Contest

During the summer, High Plains Journal held their 2018 Down Country Roads Calendar Contest that required entries that showcased the scenes of down country roads in the Midwest. Images were selected for each month of the calendar for next  year along with an overall winner.

I entered the contest and one of my milky way images over the Templeton farm got selected for the month of July.

Below is the link to the picture and the rest of the winners. Congratulations to all the photographers that were selected.

http://www.hpj.com/ag_news/down-country-roads-calendar-contest-winners/collection_52b4eb7a-9a5a-11e7-9d99-838b4ec53472.html#1

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Summer Storm Clouds over Farm Country

Equipment Used: Nikon D750, Tamron 24-70mm f2.8 DI VC G2 lense, Lightroom & Photoshop CC

It sure didn’t happen very often this summer but there were storm clouds rolling through the country side that produced dramatic skies. I happened to be getting off work when two of these storms passed through so I got my camera out to capture the scene.

The D750 was fitted with the new Tamron 24-70mm f2.8 G2 to shoot landscapes for the first time on these two nights. The VR was kept on as I was shooting handheld with shutter speeds as low as 1/80 sec. RAW format with an ISO of 400-640 and aperture of f7.1 to f9. Matrix metering was used as well and a -1.0 to +.3 exposure compensation adjustment.

Lightroom CC did the majority of the post processing with adjustments to a number of sliders. I first changed the white balance to shade followed by adjustments to exposure, contrast, shadows, whites, clarity, vibrance and saturation. A slight S was put into the tone curve and dehaze was increased as well. Once the above adjustments were done, I created a preset to be able to post process the other images much quicker.

In Photoshop CC, I first cloned out the unwanted spots from a dirty camera using the clone brush tool and straightened the image based off of the corn crib or other buildings I wanted straight. I then made a selection on the corn crib to be able to apply an exposure mask to just the crib.  Because of the red, yellow and white paint on the north side of the crib, I increased the exposure to make it more visible using that selection mask. The final step was to hit F12 to apply the sharpening action I had created previously.

With fall fast approaching, the harvest of corn and soybeans will begin soon so I look forward to getting out in the fields and capturing the farmer’s scenes with the Nikon and Tamron. 

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Summer Sunflowers 17

Equipment Used: Nikon D750, Nikon 24-120mm f4, Nikon 35mm f1.8, Nikon 70-300mm, Zeikos Extension Tubes, SB-700 Speedlight, VanGuard Abeo Plus 363CT tripod, Lightroom & Photoshop CC

The sunflower plot at Bays Branch was full of big headed sunflowers which was a great opportunity to capture the large flower on two different trips. I wish I would of gone sooner to the plot has the sunflowers on the second trip were very much past their prime. The first trip was pretty close to having them look their best.

I carried in my camera bag loaded with the above equipment and used the different lense combo’s to get the perspective of the sunflower I was looking for. With my tripod set up, I always turned off VR and AF and used LiveView to focus on the sunflower. Aperture ranged from f11 to f16 and ISO from 100-200. Both matrix and center weighted exposure metering was used along with adjustments to the exposure compensation. If I wanted a darker background, I turned down the exposure compensation and used the SB-700 flash to expose the head of the sunflower. I used either Manual or TTL on the speedlight.

Using Lightroom CC to adjust these images, I first adjusted the white balance followed by adjustments to the other common sliders. Once I had one of the images looking great, I created a preset to help speed up the processing of the other images. I used the radial filter to further improve the look of the sunflower head while leaving the background unadjusted.

In Photoshop CC, I first had to clone out a number of dust spots from a dirty lense and also a spot that is on the sensor of my D750 (Side Note: Will be sending the D750 in for a recall because of shutter issues that Nikon released a month ago. I haven’t had any issues with my body but figure it would be a good time to have the sensor cleaned as well. Now I just got to figure out the best time to not have my camera). I then sharpened the images using the high pass filter and adjusting the blend mode to overlay and opacity down to 15%. To speed up the sharpening step, I created an action in PS that will automatically do the steps needed to sharpen the image all by pressing the F12 button.

Hopefully next year I’ll be able to capture the sunflowers at their peak and also use the Tamron 24-70mm f2.8 G2 lense that I’m now using on the D750. 

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