Posts Tagged ‘studio photography’

More experimentation with tethered shooting

August 12, 2020

Oh no! I have become the blogger who cried wolf. Yes, I’m guilty of over-promising and under-delivering. I promise to do better. Oops, I did it again! (Queue Britney Spears…)

Why tethered shooting?

In case you’re wondering what piqued my interest in tethered shooting, I was bored. I had figured out all there is to know about non-tethered shooting so I needed a new challenge. Not!

Tethered shooting enables me to quickly check composition, exposure, and focus, to name a few advantages of tethered versus non-tethered shooting — on a larger screen than the LCD on the back of my cameras.

Bear in mind, I don’t want to edit the photo files using my laptop computer (Apple 11″ MacBook Air) — I prefer to use my desktop computer (Apple 24″ iMac) for photo editing.

Latest testing

The following photos were taken by tethering my Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera to an Apple 11″ MacBook Air computer, via a TetherTools USB cable. FUJIFILM Tether Shooting Plug-in PRO was used to save JPG files to a folder on the desktop of my MacBook Air; in turn, the JPG images were displayed in Adobe Lightroom. Both JPG and RAF files were saved to one of two memory cards in the X-T3.

Notice the difference in way these two photos were lighted. Both shots were taken using a single off-camera flash. The position of the flash resulted in more- or less dramatic light. Each shot shows something better than the other, so I was unable to choose a clear favorite. What’s your preference?

Tips and Tricks

Oh yeah, the tips and tricks I have been promising are still in the pipeline. I made some screen grabs today to illustrate the process of tethered shooting. Turns out I overlooked a critical setting so all of the graphics are useless. Doh! Can you say “Do over”?

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

As promised…

August 9, 2020

A rare weekend blog post

The following photo was taken by tethering my Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera to an Apple 11″ MacBook Air computer, via a TetherTools USB cable. Fujifilm X Aquire (free) was used to save JPG files to a folder on the desktop of my MacBook Air; both JPG and RAF files were saved to one of two memory cards in the X-T3.

Apple “Preview” was used to view the JPG files saved to my MacBook Air. Looking at larger versions of the photos than can be seen on the X-T3 LCD enabled me to position the exuvia exactly as I wanted.

Notice the left eye is overexposed slightly (as well as the farthest tip of the left middle leg), probably caused by positioning the subject too close to the white background. Hey, it’s been a while since I did much studio macro photography — I need to play myself into game shape!

More details, including some of the tips and tricks I promised, will be provided in my regularly-scheduled blog post on Monday, 10 August 2020. Please stay tuned!

The Backstory

Swift River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia illinoiensisexuvia was collected on 27 May 2017 along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

First foray into tethered shooting

August 5, 2020

My first foray into tethered shooting occurred on 01 August 2020. Although I felt like I had no idea what I was doing, I was able to successfully connect my Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera to an Apple 11″ MacBook Air computer, via a TetherTools USB cable. The screen on my laptop shows the display for the FUJIFILM Tether Shooting Plug-in PRO (Mac) for Adobe Lightroom.

Screen display for 11″ MacBook Air.

I will backfill this post with more details about the hardware and software used to capture the following image, taken a few days after “first light.” In the meantime, I’m SO LATE in publishing my blog post for Wednesday I just want to put something out there STAT. Please revisit this post at a later time to read the updated version.

A Swift River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia illinoiensis) exuvia was collected on 27 May 2017 along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female. Notice the prominent horn on the head, a key field mark for exuviae from Family Macromiidae (Cruisers).

Ignore the bad background and quick-and-dirty lighting — this photo isn’t so much about making a good macro photo as it is the process used to make it. More later…I promise!

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Flash photography: Backlighting the background

August 3, 2020

The following annotated photo shows a recent iteration of my “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique studio macro photography rig, set up at BoG Photo Studio, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The rig has evolved since the photo was taken: On the flash used to backlight the background, I exchanged the Lastolite Ezybox Speed-lite 2 (No. 7, above) for a small altura PHOTO softbox that seems to work as well as the larger Lastolite softbox. The swap enables me to use the two larger softboxes for lighting the subject.

In my last blog post, I posed a question.

How far should should an external flash unit fitted with some type of diffuser be positioned from the backside of a translucent white plastic sheet used to create a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique? Source Credit: Flash photography: 1:1 rule-of-thumb, by Walter Sanford.

Disclaimer: The following information explains how I figured out the answer to my question. Trial and error experimentation suggests my answer is valid. Opinions to the contrary are invited and welcome.

altura PHOTO flash diffuser

Imagine an isosceles triangle with an external flash unit at Point A, shown below, pointed toward Line BC. Line BC represents the translucent white plastic sheet (No. 2, above) that I use for the background when shooting small objects such as the odonate exuvia posed on a clear plastic stage (No. 3, above). Note: The white plastic sheet is actually 12″ square. I used a value of 12.1″ because the calculator doesn’t allow me to choose 12.0″. Go figure!

In the last post, we learned that the face of the Altura softbox should be positioned at a distance of 7.8″ or less from the subject; this is the altitude of the triangle shown below. Notice that Angle A is 76 degrees. Experiment with the Isosceles Triangle calculator by moving Point A (the external flash) closer to Line BC (the backside of the background); notice that Angle A increases as the altitude of the triangle decreases.

Isosceles Triangle calculator output courtesy Math Open Reference.

Have you noticed that your external flash unit has a “Zoom” setting? It does, or it should. It would be so simple if the increments for Zoom were in angular degrees. Instead, the units are in millimeters of focal length, as in the focal length of a lens. This where the water gets muddy!

The “field of view” for a given lens is determined by the 35mm equivalent of the lens and the size of the camera sensor. The same lens has a different field of view depending upon whether it is mounted on either a full-frame or crop-sensor camera. Long story short, check the table entitled “Focal lengths with same field of view” that’s embedded in the article “Focal Length and Field of View Explained in 4 Steps” in order to determine the Zoom setting for your external flash.

As a practical matter, choose the Zoom setting for a field of view that is closest to Angle A. The Zoom setting (field of view) can be wider than Angle A but shouldn’t less than Angle A because that will cause a “hotspot” on the background.

Lastolite flash diffuser

For what it’s worth, here’s the Isosceles Triangle calculator output for the Lastolite flash diffuser shown in the photo at the beginning of this blog post. Notice the face of the flash diffuser is positioned closer than 12.2″ from the background, so Angle A will be larger than 52 degrees. Set the Zoom function accordingly.

Isosceles Triangle calculator output courtesy Math Open Reference.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Flash photography: 1:1 rule-of-thumb

July 31, 2020

As I was setting up for my first foray into tethered macro studio photography, I was reminded of the 1:1 rule-of-thumb that is used to determine how close/far to position a flash unit from the subject.

The diagonal distance across the face of a softbox should be the distance to the subject [or less] for soft wrap-around light. Actually, the distance should be as close as possible without the softbox showing in the photo frame. Greater distances will result in a contrasty look.

For example, my Altura softbox is a 6” x 5” rectangle (~7.8” diagonally) so it should be positioned ~8″ or less from the subject. Buyer beware: This distance is OK for macro photography but not OK for most other types of photography.

Product image courtesy altura PHOTO.

My Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 is 8.6″ square (~12.2″ diagonally) so the softbox should be positioned approximately 12″ or less from the subject.

Product image courtesy B&H Photo.

Online Calculators

For small softboxes like the ones shown above, the diagonal distance can be measured with a 12″ (~30 cm) ruler. For larger softboxes, it might be easier to use an online calculator to determine the distance.

Application

How far should should an external flash unit fitted with some type of diffuser be positioned from the backside of a translucent white plastic sheet used to create a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique?

As it turns out that’s a little more complicated to calculate, assuming you would rather not waste time with trial and error experimentation. Stay tuned for a follow-up post in which I will explain how I figured it out.

Related Resource: Flash photography: Backlighting the background.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Green Darner dragonfly (external female reproductive anatomy)

June 5, 2020

For some species of odonate exuviae, sex is indicated by a form of remnant reproductive anatomy. These external structures don’t look exactly the same for all species of dragonflies and damselflies, but their function is identical.

As far as I know, this is true for all species in the Family Aeshnidae (Darners) such as Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius).

The following photograph shows a ventral view of a female Common Green Darner dragonfly. Notice the external reproductive anatomical structure on abdominal segment nine (S9) is virtually identical to the remnant anatomical structure on S9 of the exuvia, shown above.

Original photo used with permission from Louisa C. Craven.

The Backstory

My dear friend Louisa Craven discovered the lifeless adult dragonfly while on vacation with her family in Nags Head, North Carolina USA. Louisa is an accomplished wildlife photographer who developed an interest in odonates as a result of many photowalks with me.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MYN – Hits and misses

May 25, 2020

This blog post might have been called “New ways of doing the same old thing.” In other words, experimenting with new techniques for shooting sets of macro photos of a familiar  subject and new variations for creating focus-stacked composite images.

80mm (120mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/16 | 1/200s | ISO 160 | 0 ev

Tech Tips

In-camera focus bracketing was used to shoot a photo set with my Fujifilm X-T3 mirrorless digital camera and Fujinon 80mm macro lens (coupled with 11mm and 16mm extension tubes for a little additional magnification).

The camera lens was focused manually on the closest point on the face of the subject. The shutter button was pressed one time; the first photo was taken after a 10-second timer elapsed, then the focus point advanced automatically from the initial focus point to a far point on the subject in the background of the photo.

RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 3.0 was used to batch-convert the resulting 50 images from Fujifilm RAF files to TIFF files. Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create five sub-stacks (10 photos per sub-stack) that were combined into one focus-stacked composite image. The final image was edited using Apple Aperture.

Analyzing the results

Most of the “misses” were self-inflicted.

For example, minimal effort was invested in arranging the subject and lighting the scene. Generally speaking, better lighting results in better photos.

Some trial and error is required in order to determine the correct focus bracketing settings for a given combination of camera and lens. The following settings were used to shoot the photo set for the focus-stacked composite image featured in this post: Frames = 50; Step = 10; Interval = 4 s.

Step size is a number from one (1) to 10, with one being the smallest increment and 10 being the largest. Although a step size of 10 enabled the camera to cover the subject completely from front-to-back in 50 frames, selecting the coarsest step increment might have resulted in small “focus gaps” that are noticeable in a few places on the full-size version of the composite image.

I cabled a Godox PROPAC PB960 to the Godox TT685C external flash unit that is used to backlight the white background. The power pack enables faster flash recycle times and increases the number of times the flash can be fired before its AA batteries run down. That was a big “hit!”

I didn’t realize the radio flash trigger was set for a power ratio of 1/4 +0.7 — that’s 2/3 of a stop slower than my preferred setting of 1/2 +0.3 that usually results in the pure white background (255, 255, 255) that is a goal of the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. That was a big “miss” I was able to correct in post-processing, although increasing the exposure enough to blow out the background might have degraded image quality a little.

One of many reasons the Fujifilm X-Series cameras are so popular is their retro look and feel, including lots of buttons and dials on the camera body. That’s good and bad: it’s good to be able to adjust many camera settings using either an external button or dial rather than navigating through menus in the camera’s firmware; it’s bad that it’s easy to change camera settings accidentally.

I must have rotated the back dial slightly because the shutter speed was set for 1/200 s rather than the camera sync speed of 1/250 s. Using a faster shutter speed can result in sharper images.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Macromia illinoiensis exuvia (face-head) redux

May 22, 2020

A Swift River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia illinoiensis) exuvia was collected, with permission from park staff, on 27 May 2017 along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The preceding image shows the remnant ommatidia clearly.

From this viewpoint, it’s harder to see the prominent horn on the face that is a key field mark for larvae/exuviae in the Family Macromiidae (Cruisers). The base of the triangular horn is located above the labium (face mask), between the long, thin antennae; the apex of the triangle is pointed toward the viewer.

It’s easier to see the horn in the featured photo in my last blog post.

Tech Tips

The subject was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique.

20 photos of the specimen were taken using 2.5x magnification at an aperture of f/4; in-camera focus peaking was used to highlight select areas in each photo. RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 3.0 was used to convert Fujifilm RAF files to TIFF files. Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create a focus-stacked composite image that was edited using Apple Aperture.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Macromia illinoiensis exuvia (face-head)

May 20, 2020

The following photograph of a Swift River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia illinoiensis) exuvia shows a prominent horn on the face that is a key field mark for larvae/exuviae in the Family Macromiidae (Cruisers).

The specimen was collected, with permission from park staff, on 27 May 2017 along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Tech Tips

The subject was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. The specimen was posed on its dorsal side, so the camera was focused on the face-head-ventral view of the exuvia. The final image was cropped and rotated 180° during post-processing.

10 photos of the specimen were taken using an aperture of f/16; in-camera focus peaking was used to highlight select areas in each photo. RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 3.0 was used to convert Fujifilm RAF files to TIFF files. Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create a focus-stacked composite image that was edited using Apple Aperture.

Editor’s Note: This blog post is the last installment in what turned out to be a three-part series. The featured focus-stacked composite image is a little closer to what I had in mind when I set up the photo shoot.

  1. MYN – Macromiidae larvae/exuviae are horny
  2. RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 3.0

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MYN – Macromiidae larvae/exuviae are horny

May 15, 2020

A prominent horn on the face is a key field mark for larvae/exuviae in the Family Macromiidae (Cruisers), as shown in the following photograph of a Swift River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia illinoiensis) exuvia.

The base of the triangular horn is located above the labium (face mask), between the long, thin antennae.

The specimen was collected, with permission from park staff, on 27 May 2017 along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Tech Tips

The subject was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. The specimen was posed on its dorsal side, so the camera was focused on the face-head-ventral view of the exuvia. The image was rotated 180° during post-processing.

My vintage 2009 Apple iMac desktop computer is too old to support drivers for importing RAF files from my Fujifilm X-T3 mirrorless digital camera into either Apple Aperture or Adobe Lightroom.

The work-around is to use a free application from Fujifilm that converts RAF files to TIFF files, which can be opened and edited with Aperture and Lightroom. Problem is I’m a big procrastinator and haven’t learned how to use the file converter application, so I simply edited one of the JPGs straight from the camera.

For the most part, the finished image looks fairly good although the eyes are blown out a little to a lot. JPG files have less dynamic range than RAF files so I was unable to recover the blown highlights.

Hmmm, it might be time to buy a new desktop computer!

Post Updates

I finally got around to figuring out how to use the free Fujifilm application to convert RAF files to TIFFs. See my follow-up blog post entitled “RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 3.0” for step-by-step instructions.

10 photos (converted from RAF to TIFF), including the one-off featured in this blog post, were used to create a focus-stacked composite image of the specimen that is a little closer to what I had in mind when I set up the photo shoot.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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