Squash Blossom

Photographing squash blossoms

When you search for “squash blossom” Google will serve up a long collection of recipes for frying, stuffing, and preparing them in other ways.

Photographing them? Who would ever want to to that? Squash blossoms are fickle models. Not easy. Each blossom is open only once and then for just a few hours. The open early, before the daylight gets good enough for photography.

This was taken about eight in the morning. The EXIF says 2020:08:02 06:55:10-04:00, I keep my camera clock on EST.

An hour and a half later a bit of sunlight got through the trees.

Notice that the edges have started to curl up. The blossom does present a neat star-like appearance. (8:28 EST)

Another hour later, at 9:33 EST, the blossom has begun to look bedraggled.

Little creatures have discovered the offering. Not yet the bumble bees that are the main pollinators, just the local neighbors. This is a male blossom and it offers its pollen in the hopes that some of it gets carried over to a female blossom.

Data on the photo below: Focal length 90mm, f/11, distance 0.56 m, DOF= 20 mm Not that the depth of field isn’t enough to get the small flies into focus. The image is cropped. Full frame showed all of the  blossom.

One more hour and the show is over. At 10:32 the blossom has pretty much closed up and looks like it will fall off shortly.

There is more to my story. These blossoms are about 4 to 6 inch across and are also quite deep. That makes getting everything sharp a challenge. For my first photo all the way at the top, I used a lens at 120 mm focal length and f/8. This gave a depth of field of just 18 mm (0.7 inch) as reported in the EXIF data, my shooting distance was 0.79 m (31 inch).

Besides having to manage the DOF exposure poses another little problem. Yellow blossoms, especially these orange-yellow ones, will confuse the camera light meter.

The image on the left shows the photo on the camera. This demonstrates that “chimping”, reviewing the image on your camera, is a good thing. In this mode the histogram is displayed individually for the three colors. The red arrow (added afterwards, of course) shows that the red data has a peak bunched up to the right side, indicating clipping of red information. This can show as washed out detail. You can see the same information in the histogram on the ON1 Photo RAW editor display, on the right. The image of the blossom looks good on the screen, but the histogram says that some red data is clipped.

When I shoot yellow flowers I underexpose, for this photo by a whole stop. Here is the screen view of the ON1 editor for the underexposed photo.

Yes, the photo looks distinctly underexposed, but the histogram shows that I captured all the data. This allows me to make the best of this image in post-processing.

So, to recap. Squash blossoms are temperamental models, they are open for only a couple of hours early in the morning. Their size across and in depth makes depth of field tricky. Pick what you want sharp. Their bright color can fool the camera, underexposure is desirable.

When you see a bud looking like this, set your alarm!

 

.:. © 2020 Ludwig Keck

Georgia Winter

Winter in Georgia

Yes, we do get winter down here in Georgia. Sometimes we even get snow. Here is my story of “winter” in Georgia in 2020.

On February 3rd our first daffodil greeted the new year.

The next day three more blossoms joined the chorus singing to the coming of spring.

Alas, it wasn’t spring that came. It was a cold rain “event” that beat down the flowers two days later and reminded us all of the official season.

The daffodils are a hardy bunch and determined to do their job. By evening they stated to lift their blossoms back up. But then, surprise, on the following morning, February 8, at around 9:30 snow started falling. It had been 750 days, according to one of the Atlanta meteorologists, since the last snow fall in our area. And it wasn’t just a light dusting. We got the full deal! By eleven o’clock that morning about an inch of the white stuff covered the ground and our spring messengers.

Winter snow had come! Of course, hereabouts that’s to be enjoyed quickly. It doesn’t last very long. By five in the afternoon the melting was on its way.

By nine-thirty the next morning it was back to work for our persistent friends.

Our trumpeter of spring proudly stands tall and bright.

… And so do its friends.

Our daffodils, my iPhone (which captured all but one of these images), my shadow and I wish you a happy Valentine’s Day and a glorious spring time!

.:. © 2020 Ludwig Keck

Crowd Panos

Photographing Concerts and their Audiences

 

For as long as I can remember, I have always enjoyed showing the audience when photographing concerts. Invariably there is no way to step back far enough to capture the expansive crowd. Nor do I have a wide angle lens that can take it all in. My solution has been to make a panoramic image by stitching together overlapping views. Like this:

Evening Concert – PC Town Center  —  CLICK picture – with luck your browser will show it bigger

Sadly I can no longer link to a viewer that shows panos well, but with luck your browser will do a reasonable job.

The image here was stitched from eight separate exposures. Here are four of them.

Take a closer look at these four. You can see that stitching them faces some interesting obstacles. Yes, The photos show lots of noise. These photos were taken in the evening, night might be a better word. All at f/5.6 and 1/250s with the camera allowed to adjust the sensitivity (auto-ISO). My old camera doesn’t do so well at ISO 5000 to 25600.  On the left end the light evening sky tricked the camera into underexposing the people and I had to boost the shadows – always bad for noise. On the right end the camera reached ISO 25600 and all the noise that comes with that. I do use some noise removal app for these, but that is another story.

In the minute or so that it took to get this set people moved around quite a bit. Some people even walked along in front. That is one huge problem for stitching. Another is more subtle. Look at the lamp post. In one image it is quite bent, straight in the last. That tells you my lens produces a good about of barrel distortion. These problems, and even exposure nonuniformities are easily solved my my stitching program, Microsoft Image Composite Editor, ICE.

On the bottom it says: Camera motion: rotating motion. Stitched 8 of 8 images. Spans 169.3° horizontally, 48.7° vertically. You can see how the program ballooned the images to correct for distortion, moved them up and down for best alignment and found were to cut  from one to the next. Oh, there are stitching artifacts. In a crowd with everybody moving not even the best AI, for that matter nt even old-fashioned human intelligence, could get it perfect. ICE offers a number of different projections as you can see. For this I stayed with the default cylindrical projection.

The four steps at the top describe the major functions, Import, Stitch, Crop, and Export. In the cropping function it even offers to fill the areas around the edges with “context matching fill”. I did not make use of that for this pano.

The final step is to export. Sadly the Deep Zoom and Photosynth options are no longer of use. Time has marched on and Microsoft has given up on those tools. Even ICE is pretty much orphaned, although still available for download from Microsoft. I chose to export a full quality (100%) JPG image. You can see that it is 18098 pixels wide. That makes for a 98.78 megapixel image. I did go back and trimmed top and bottom, see first image above. The file size still came out as 99.6 MB. Yes, I did scale it down for this post.

Here is another pano. This one is made up of just two images. I am using this as the “featured image” so WordPress does not have to choke on the wide panorama.

Evening Concert – PC Town Center

Now for some other photos from this first Concert on the Green at the Peachtree Corners Town Center with the band Sister Hazel. The lead singer is Ken Block

 

.:.

© 2019 Ludwig Keck

Shadows in flash pictures

Bring out what’s hiding in the shadows

Pictures taken indoors with on-camera-flash usually have dingy, dark backgrounds. There is little that can be done about the behavior of light. An object at twice the distance from the flash will get only a quarter as much light. That means it will be darker in the picture.

There is no need to live with that problem. Post-processing, just a little bit of adjustments, can substantially enhance such photos. That is what the Shadows slider in Photo Gallery can correct substantially. With some judicious use of the Hightlights slider, and maybe a bit of adjustments with the others, a flash photo can be made to look quite good.

Here are a couple of screen shots to illustrate what can be done with a flash picture.

Shadows-01

This is the oroginal photograph, just the way it came from the camera. It looks like what you expect from a flash picture, the objects close to the camera, the table and chairs here, are properly exposed, things farther away look progressively darker.

Next the picture with some enhancements.

shadows-06

The Shadows slider was moved all the way to the right to make darker areas of the photo lighter. Sometimes such a drastic adjustment may turn out to be way too much, but for this picture it worked well. The Highlights slider is moved a little to the left to make the lightes areas a bit darker. The Contrast slider was also moved to the right jut a little bit to increase contrast.  Note how much lighter the far wall is, it looks almost normal they way you would see it.

Other photo editors have similar tools. Sometimes they have different names. In Picasa the Fill Light slider brings the details out of the shadows. The Shadows slider makes intermediate toned areas darker. Careful use and a little trial and error will help you get the best pictures out of your flash photos.

shadows-05

.:.

© 2016 Ludwig Keck