Posts Tagged ‘studio photography’

Test shots

September 17, 2021

I have been working on the prototype for a homemade curved clear plastic tray that is intended for staging subjects against a white background.

My goal for Thursday: Test the prototype stage using a toy mini-lizard as the model for some test shots, and if the proof-of-concept were established, substitute an odonate exuvia for the toy lizard and shoot another set of photos.

16 SEP 2021 | BoG Photo Studio | toy mini-lizard

Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans! First, a line of fairly strong thunderstorms moved through the region where I live so I had to shut down my computer equipment. Second, the Washington Football Team played the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football so I had to watch the game. That’s right, had to watch. Turns out it was time well-spent.

Bottom line: I never finished the test shots of the toy lizard, and of course that means I didn’t shoot any photos of a real scientific specimen.

The curved surface of the clear plastic stage caused reflections from the single external flash that was used to light the subject. I had just figured out a work-around when the thunderstorms rolled in: I took 14 test shots; only the last one (shown above) is usable. I hadn’t intended to create a photo with a pure white background, but it was easy to adjust the image exposure during post-processing.

The Backstory

What’s my motivation? Many macro photographers use insect pins for mounting small subjects like odonate exuviae. I think there’s a big problem with that technique: The position of the pin is permanent. In other words, if the pin is attached to the ventral side of the specimen then it’s challenging at best and impossible at worst to take clean, clear shots of that side of the subject. I don’t want to use insect pins because some of my specimens are one of a kind.

For quite some time, I’ve been experimenting with the use of flat clear plastic stages as a solution for this problem. I think a curved stage might be a breakthrough, but more testing is required to be sure.

For example, notice the color fringing near the tip of the lizard’s tail — I’m not sure what caused that problem in only one part of the photo, therefore I don’t know how to fix it. Yet.

To be continued. Please stay tuned.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Sumo Citrus still life

March 19, 2021

Have you seen/eaten Sumo Citrus? They’re easy to peel, seedless, and billed as “the sweetest orange.” Delicious, I say!

How I got the shots

I set up a tripod at a good distance from the subject for a 50mm lens. Then I switched cameras without moving the tripod. Each camera/lens combo was set for an aperture of f/8; other camera and flash settings varied as necessary. (See EXIF info for details regarding camera settings for each photo.)

Canon 5D Mark II

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens (“Nifty 50”), Godox X2TC, Godox TT685C plus Lastolite flash modifier.

18 March 2021 | BoG Photo Studio | Sumo Citrus

Fujifilm X-T1

Fujinon 18-55mm zoom kit lens set for 34mm (51mm, 35mm equivalent), Godox XProF, Godox TT685C plus Lastolite flash modifier.

18 March 2021 | BoG Photo Studio | Sumo Citrus

Fujifilm X-T3

Fujifilm 11mm extension tube, Fujinon XF80mm macro lens, Vello Off-Camera TTL Flash Cord, Godox X2TF, Godox TT685C plus Lastolite flash modifier.

18 March 2021 | BoG Photo Studio | Sumo Citrus

Sumo Citrus from Giant Food

Bernard Nimmons is the produce manager at the Giant Food located in Beacon Center. I sent a Facebook Messenger message to Bernard recently…

I need Sumo Oranges STAT! Are they back in stock?

The following selfie photo is Bernard’s reply to my message. Now you can see why I always say “Bernard puts the ‘Pro’ in Produce.”

Selfie photo used with permission from Bernard Nimmons.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Tethered shooting using Canon EOS Utility

March 5, 2021

Canon EOS Utility (EOS-U) can be used to tether many models of Canon digital cameras with computers (running either macOS or Windows). For example, my Canon EOS 5D Mark II appears on the list of cameras supported by EOS-U.

Canon EOS-U is like a box of chocolates — you never know what you’re going to get! The way that tethering looks and functions seems to depend upon a combination of your camera model and your computer operating system.

My new 13″ Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020) features the “Big Sur” macOS. The drop-down menu for “Operating System” (shown below) doesn’t list either “Big Sur” or “Catalina” — the last two versions of macOS. So I selected “macOS Mohave v10.14” …

and downloaded/installed “EOS Utility 2.14.31b for Mac OS X.”

Canon EOS Utility 2

Here’s how to get started. Tether your camera to a computer using an appropriate cable for your camera and computer.

Trouble-shooting tip: Set the camera Drive Mode for “One Shot” before tethering your camera to a computer. EOS Utility 2 doesn’t work when the Drive Mode of my Canon EOS 5D Mark II is set for Timer (either 2 s or 10 s).

Launch Canon EOS Utility 2, or EOS-U 3 if you are using a newer camera than me. The “Main Window” (shown below) should appear on screen. Click on “Camera settings/Remote shooting.”

The “Capture Window” (camera control panel) should appear on screen, as shown below.

Click on the button labeled “Preferences…” that is located in the lower-left corner of the “Capture Window” (camera control panel). The following screenshot shows all of the categories of preferences.

Select Preferences → Basic Settings in order to set the “Main Window” to show on startup. I recommend ticking the checkbox to automatically display the “Quick Preview” window whenever a photo is taken.

Select Preferences → Remote Shooting in order to set where photo files are saved. My camera is set to shoot RAW files only; CR2 files are saved to both my camera and computer, as indicated by the icon in the camera control panel that looks like a computer + camera.

Select Preferences → Destination Folder to specify the location where photo files will be saved on your computer. My preferences are as follows.

Help requested: A little help from my readers, please. What is the purpose of the “Monitor Folder,” shown in the preceding “Preferences” panel? I speculate it might be a folder that is watched by “Digital Photo Professional 4,” free photo editing software available from CanonUSA.

Subfolders within the “Destination Folder” are created automatically as per my preferences.

Select Preferences → Linked Software in order to set an application that will be used to open photo files automatically. In my case, I registered “Preview,” an Apple graphics utility.

When you click on the “Register…” button the first time, what you see varies depending upon whether you are using EOS Utility 2…

or EOS Utility 3. In either case, all of the default options are Canon applications. If you would prefer to link to a non-Canon application, then select “None” and press the “Register…” button again in order to browse the applications available on your computer.

The “Capture Window” (camera control panel, shown below) can be used to change some but not all settings for my Canon EOS 5D Mark II. The initial settings shown by EOS-U should be the same as your camera before it was tethered to your computer.

The grayed-out “M” indicates my camera is set for Manual shooting mode. The shooting mode (M, Av, Tv, P, etc.) cannot be changed in software — you must make that setting by turning the dial on your camera. Also, adjusting the focal length of a zoom lens cannot be done remotely by the software.

The camera settings shown in black can be adjusted remotely. For example, I set the White Balance for “Flash,” as indicated by the lightning flash icon. Press the virtual shutter button when you’re ready to take a photo.

EOS-U 2 seems to have no idea what type of lens is mounted on the camera. In this case, I used my Canon “Nifty 50” lens (EF 50mm f/1.8 II) to take some test shots. The “Quick Preview” panel appears after you take a photo. (The panel is resizable.)

Each photo also opens automatically in “Preview” based upon my settings in Preferences → Linked Software. To some extent, it’s redundant to open photos in both EOS-U “Quick Preview” and Apple “Preview.” My goal is simply to demonstrate for Fujifilm that Canon has shown it is possible to make “Linked Software” work on a computer running the Big Sur macOS.

Click the “Live View shoot…” button, located near the bottom of the “Capture Window” (camera control panel), in order to display the “Remote Live View window” (shown below). There you can set the focus point, and zoom in/out. Other options might be available depending upon your camera model.

Canon EOS Utility 3

Mike Powell, my good friend and photowalking buddy, experimented with his Canon EOS Rebel SL2 tethered to Canon EOS Utility 3. Sincere thanks to Mike for patiently helping me begin to figure out things that are software-dependent and things that are camera-dependent.

Your mileage might vary, but it’s worth noting that the “Capture Window” (camera control panel) for Mike’s Canon EOS Rebel SL2 shows several options that aren’t available for my older Canon EOS 5D Mark II. This is the box of chocolates thing that I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post.

For example, the Drive Mode [Single Shot, Continuous, Timers (2, 10 s)] can be set in EOS-U 3 (on Mike’s camera) but can’t be set in EOS-U 2 (on my camera).

Look closely at the “Capture Window” (camera control panel, shown above). Notice the icon for a movie camera located to the right of the “Live View shoot…” button. That button is supposed to enable remote video shooting; neither Mike nor I have tested the process.

Here’s a screenshot of the “Remote Live View window” on Mike’s computer. Notice the EOS-U 3 window features more buttons than EOS-U 2. Also notice the histogram shown in the lower-right corner, a useful tool that isn’t featured in EOS-U 2 using either Mike’s Canon EOS 50D or my Canon EOS 5D Mark II.

What are the take-aways?

Canon EOS Utility can do so much more than tethered shooting using Adobe Lightroom Classic that EOS-U is the tool of choice for tethered shooting with my Canon camera. I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface of what EOS-U can do, and I’m looking forward to further exploration and experimentation.

Who knows? The joy of tethered shooting with EOS-U — and the frustration of the limitations of the software when used with my older camera — might motivate me to buy a new Canon mirrorless digital camera. That is, assuming Canon introduces a pro-grade camera with an APS-C sensor at a sub-$4K price point. If I’m going to spend $4,000 or more for a camera — the current price range for higher end Canon mirrorless digital cameras — then I think my money would be better spent on one of the Fujifilm GFX medium format digital cameras.

Related Resources

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Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Tethered shooting using my Canon EOS 5D Mark II

March 2, 2021

Adobe Lightroom Classic can be used to tether many models of Canon and Nikon digital cameras with computers (running either macOS or Windows) that meet the system requirements. For example, my Canon EOS 5D Mark II appears on the list of tethered cameras supported by Lightroom Classic.

The Canon EOS 5D Mark II works as expected when tethered with Lightroom Classic. “Live View”¹ on the computer screen plus the ability to change camera settings and trigger the camera using Lightroom are among many features I like. And it’s FREE. Well, free as long as you have Lightroom Classic and that isn’t free.

Getting started

Here’s how to get started. Tether your camera to a computer using an appropriate cable for your camera and computer. Launch Lightroom. Select File → Tethered Capture → Start Tethered Capture…

The “Tethered Capture Settings” window appears on screen; carefully consider the settings you make (especially the “Destination”) since Lightroom doesn’t like it when you change the location of photo files on your computer!

After your camera is connected to the computer successfully, select File → Show Tethered Capture Window. “Command-T” is the keyboard shortcut to toggle on/off the “Tethered Capture Window,” shown below.

The window indicates the name of the camera connected to your computer and the “Session Name” that you used when you set the “Tethered Capture Settings”; in this case I used the name “Studio Session.”

Click the button labeled ¹”Live” in order to see a “Live View” of your camera. With my camera tethered to an Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020) — by far the fastest computer I own and one of the faster computers currently on the market — there is so much video lag that I found “Live” to be unusable!

You can adjust a limited number of camera settings, including shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and white balance (shown from left-to-right in the “Tethered Capture Window”).

“Develop Settings” can be applied on-the-fly to photos as you shoot them. I’m not sure how useful this feature is, given the fact that it seems like every photo requires a unique set of adjustments/edits.

Lastly, there is a shutter button that triggers the camera remotely.

To end the session, select File → Tethered Capture → Stop Tethered Capture.

What are the take-aways?

Essentially that’s all you can do using Adobe Lightroom Tethered Capture. As far as I can tell, there’s no way to autofocus the camera lens remotely. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) That would be a nice feature to add. (Hint-hint, Adobe.)

In contrast, the Canon EOS Utility can do so much more I think it’s the tool of choice for tethered shooting with my Canon camera. Please stay tuned for my next blog post in which I will do a complete review of Canon EOS Utility 2, plus a few comments about Ver. 3.

Related Resource: Tethering just got better in Lightroom Classic CC, by Terry White (20:59). “Adobe Evangelist Terry White shows how to shoot tethered into Lightroom Classic CC with the enhancements released in the February 2019 update.” Source Credit: Show notes. Note: Mr. White refers to the refers to the “Tethered Capture Window” as “Tether/ing Bar.”

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Dromogomphus spinosus exuvia (dorsal view)

February 19, 2021

Gomphidae (Clubtails) is the second largest family of dragonflies, behind Libellulidae (Skimmers). Many types of clubtail larvae (nymphs)/exuviae look similar, adding to the challenge of identifying some specimens to the genus and species level.

This specimen has a flat labium that doesn’t cover the face (not mask-like), indicating it’s either Aeshnidae (Darners) or Gomphidae; the shape of the body suggets Gomphidae. Several more field marks can be used to identify this specimen as a Black-shouldered Spinyleg (Dromogomphus spinosus) exuvia.

16 FEB 2021 | BoG Photo Studio | D. spinosus exuvia (dorsal)

The specimen is approximately 3.3 cm (~1.3 in) long, measured from head to tail. Notice the mid-dorsal hooks/spines located along the abdomen of the body.

At first I thought the exuvia might be a species from the genus Stylurus, based upon the mid-dorsal spine on abdominal segment nine (S9). After careful examination of two excellent photo-illustrated PowerPoint presentations by Kevin Hemeon at NymphFest 2016 (see Related Resources, below), I noticed none of the species in the genus Stylurus have dorsal hooks. That’s when I realized the specimen must be D. spinosus. Eureka! Source Credit: Dromogomphus spinosus exuvia – a blog post published on 28 June 2019 by Walter Sanford.

Related Resources

The following PowerPoint presentations by Kevin Hemeon are available in the “Files” section of the Northeast Odonata Facebook group. Direct links to the documents are provided below.

Odonate Exuviae – a hyperlinked list of identification guides to many species of odonate exuviae from seven families of dragonflies and three families of damselflies.

Tech Tips

The photograph featured in this blog post is a “one-off,” that is, a single photo rather than a focus-stacked composite image. The camera lens was set for f/16; the camera body was set for ISO 160 and a shutter speed of 1/250 s.

The photo was taken using a Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera, Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube, Fujinon XF80mm macro lens (120mm, 35mm equivalent), and an array of external lights.

Two external flash units were used to create the white background by cross lighting the front of a piece of white plastic; another flash was used to light the subject. A Sunpack LED 160 was used as a focusing aid.

RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 3.0 was used to convert one RAW (RAF) file to a TIFF file. The TIFF file was edited using Apple Aperture and sharpened using Photoshop.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Dromogomphus spinosus exuvia (ventral view)

February 16, 2021

A dragonfly exuvia was collected by Joe Johnston on 22 May 2019 at Aquia Creek, Stafford County, Virginia USA. This specimen is the cast skin from a Black-shouldered Spinyleg (Dromogomphus spinosus) larva (nymph). D. spinosus is a member of Family Gomphidae (Clubtails).

The specimen is approximately 3.3 cm (~1.3 in) long, measured from head to tail.

15 FEB 2021 | BoG Photo Studio | D. spinosus exuvia (ventral)

Male odonates have two sets of sex organs: primary genitalia located on abdominal segment nine (S9); and secondary genitalia located on abdominal segments two-to-three (S2-3).

This male specimen has too much dirt on S9 to see the primary genitalia; the secondary genitalia are visible on S2-3. I plan to annotate the image in order to highlight select anatomical features.

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The subject was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. The exposure was increased by 0.3 stop during post-processing in order to attain a pure white background.

A composite image was created from several photos taken using a Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera, Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube, Fujinon XF80mm macro lens, and an array of external lights.

One external flash unit was used to create the white background and two others to light the subject. A Sunpack LED 160 was used as a focusing aid.

RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 3.0 was used to convert six (6) RAW (RAF) files to TIFF files. In a departure from my usual workflow, the TIFF files were loaded into Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 in order to create the focus stacked composite image. The composite image was edited using Apple Aperture and sharpened using Photoshop.

Tech Take-aways

Notice there is some color fringing (mostly reds) that is especially noticeable on the front legs and antennae, as well as along the edges of the posterior abdomen. I have been experimenting with a new technique for backlighting the subject. It appears I need to add another layer of diffusion between the light source and the subject.

There is also some “softness” along the edges of the abdomen that could be the result of too few focus points for the shape of the body, which in turn, could have caused artifacts in the composite image.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MWAA jet airplane pencil eraser

February 12, 2021

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) was the school-business partner with Carl Sandburg Middle School (Fairfax County Public Schools) when I worked at the school as a full-time planetarium teacher and later as a part-time planetarium teacher/part-time physical science teacher.

MWAA always brought good SWAG when they participated in school events like the annual “Career Day.” The jet airplane pencil eraser, shown below, was one of the more popular items.

Single image

An MWAA jet airplane pencil eraser was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. The exposure was increased slightly during post-processing in order to attain a pure white background.

08 FEB 2021 | BoG Photo Studio | MWAA jet airplane pencil eraser

Composite image

The following composite image was created from several photos taken using a Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera, Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube, Fujinon XF80mm macro lens, and an array of external lights.

One external flash unit was used to create the white background and another to light the subject. A Sunpack LED 160 was used as a focusing aid.

Seven (7) photos were edited using Apple Aperture, exported as TIFF files, then loaded into Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 in order to create the focus stacked composite image.

08 FEB 2021 | BoG Photo Studio | MWAA jet airplane pencil eraser

Look closely at the pencil shaft and you will notice some serious artifacts from the focus stacking process; more serious artifacts were cropped from the top of the image. Hey, sometimes focus stacking using Photoshop works; sometimes it doesn’t. When it works, it works well; when it doesn’t, well, there are artifacts in the composite image. I have read it’s possible to repair those artifacts, but I’ve never had any luck with that.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

When is a yellow pencil not yellow?

February 9, 2021

A yellow pencil isn’t yellow when the subject is photographed in a studio under artificial light and the photographer is more focused on focus than color fidelity.

08 FEB 2021 | BoG Photo Studio | SANFORD EAGLE yellow pencil

I know what you’re thinking. “Gee, I wish I had a pencil with my last name on it.” But you don’t. Hah! This isn’t one of those cheesy pencils you can order with your name on it — oh no, this “Sanford” brand pencil was manufactured by Newell Brands, a public company headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. Newell Brands also makes “Sharpie” markers.

Tech Tips

A SANFORD EAGLE yellow pencil was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. The exposure was increased by 0.2 stop during post-processing in order to attain a pure white background.

The composite image featured in this blog post was created from several photos taken using a Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera, Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube, Fujinon XF80mm macro lens, and an array of external lights.

One external flash unit was used to create the white background and another to light the subject. A Sunpack LED 160 was used as a focusing aid.

Six (6) photos were edited using Apple Aperture, exported as TIFF files, then loaded into Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 in order to create the focus stacked composite image.

Announcement: New schedule for publishing blog posts

Beginning on Tuesday, 09 February 2021 blog posts will be published on Tuesday and Friday every week.

I want the followers of my blog to know I struggled with this decision. My decision is based in part on the impact of the pandemic on my day-to-day activities. I’m not sure, but I think this is the first time I’ve mentioned COVID-19 in my blog — I always looked at my blog as a sanctuary from the pandemic for my readers and me. So I soldiered on. That said, with no end in sight for the foreseeable future I must admit I’m started to feel drained and just don’t have the energy to post three times a week.

Going forward, this change might be permanent, at least for the winter months of December, January, and February.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Alvin? Alvin? Alvin?!?

February 3, 2021

I thought I had figured out how the “FUJIFILM Tether Shooting Plug-in PRO (Mac)” does automated focus bracketing. My working theory was (past tense) the plug-in commands the camera body/lens to move from one auto-focus (AF) focus point to another, based upon the two end-points selected by the user. So I devised a test for my theory. Turns out I was not only wrong, but I’m more confused than ever based upon my test results!

My theory arose from the observation that the focus point changed from the beginning to end of every focus bracket test shoot. For example, the first end-point was near the following focus point…

and the final focus point was near the last end-point.

My camera is set to display 425 AF points. There are 25 AF points in each row, as shown in the first photo.

For the first set of test shots, the plug-in set the number of shots to three (3). That made sense at the time, since I could have selected three AF points manually and covered the image well enough so that the entire subject is acceptably in focus at an aperture of f/16.

During the next two sets of test shots, I selected the same end-points but the plug-in wanted to set the number of shots to greater than 180 photos for both tests. No way I was going to shoot that many photos since my theory was a bust — 180 shots far exceeds 25, the number of AF points in a single row.

Perhaps the number of shots has something to do with the function of the slider for each eye dropper, but I don’t know — I haven’t figured out how the sliders work. (Anyone? A little help, please.)

Alvin

A toy Alvin (the Chipmunks) was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique.

02 FEB 2021 | BoG Photo Studio | toy Alvin (the Chipmunks)

9 photographs were taken using a Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera, Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube, and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens, including a set of three photos from my first automated focus bracket test shoot plus some test shots before/after the focus bracket.

The photos were edited using Apple Aperture, exported as TIFF files, then loaded into Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 in order to create the focus stack.

Related Resource: The Chipmunks : The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late) (2:22)

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Testing tethered automated focus bracketing

February 1, 2021

I changed the orientation of the ruler featured in my last blog post and used the “FUJIFILM Tether Shooting Plug-in PRO (Mac)” to shoot another set of automated focus bracketing test photos. The ruler was aligned with the barrel of the camera lens, sloping downward gradually as the distance from the lens increased.

Based upon the end-points I selected, the plug-in set the number of shots to 11. The following slideshow shows photo No. 1, No. 6, and No. 11. The focus point moved along the ruler from back-to-front, opposite from the order in which I set the end-points. In other words, End-point 1 (located somewhere near the bottom of the photo) is photo No. 11 and End-point 2 (located near the middle of the photo) is photo No. 1. Is that a Fuji thing? Further testing required.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In case you can’t see each image clearly in the slideshow, here’s a gallery of larger versions of the photos through which you can move forward/backward manually. Click on any photo, then use the left and right arrows to cycle through the gallery.

Finally, here’s a focus stack of all 11 photos. I created a quick-and-dirty composite image using Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 plus the 11 JPGs straight from my camera (without any editing).

What looks like “ghosting” isn’t — the numerals and tick marks are raised above the surface of the ruler.

I don’t see any noticeable “focus gaps” from the middle to lower part of the ruler (relative to the photo) where my end-points were set. That’s a good thing!

As always, a small sample size is insufficient to declare success but the proof-of-concept is established and so far so good (he said with fingers crossed).

My Fujinon XF80mm macro lens lens was set for less than its maximum magnification ratio of 1:1. I’m curious to see how the plug-in performs when using macro lenses that feature auto-focus and a magnification ratio of greater than 1:1. On second thought, both of the high-magnification lenses I own are manual focus only. Perhaps one of my readers can comment.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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