“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

So, there I was, reading the March/April 2017 issue of Popular Photography magazine (specifically an article by Glen Van Slooten on ‘seeing the trees for the forest’) which included this quote from Henry David Thoreau.  The words resonated deep inside me.  A few days later, I was reading about the cover shot for the March 2017 issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine.  In his own words to describe the picture and his process for making it, the photographer, Robert Glenn Ketchum, said this, “…As you look at this image, I want to call your attention to an “old school” idea about taking pictures: The camera doesn’t matter; it’s what you see that’s important…”  My technically oriented engineer’s brain almost exploded.  I called one of my photo mentors to discuss this interesting concept.  He laughed and said something like, ‘why yes, and that’s the subject of a presentation I’m making next week.’  (Though I didn’t hear it specifically, I’m sure that he covered the telephone and said something like ‘he FINALLY gets it!!’)

As I thought about the quotes and my mentor and his presentation, I realized that I have been subconsciously wrestling with the concept for some time.  When I look at something, what am I actually seeing?  I had always wondered why people making images from the same place and time that I was were making better images.  In many instances, they could see an image that I didn’t.

What does it mean?  Simply, there’s one more item on my list of things to learn about photography.  This one, however, is not a setting on the camera – it’s consciously looking at an item, animal, or scene and visualizing the image it could be, or taking an idea and making it into a reality.  We’ll all see if I can actually do it – the challenge is there.

I had the opportunity to go inside the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City before it re-opened last weekend.  The Museum suffered damage from flooding last January and has been closed for repairs and cleanup.  I’m happy to report that the Museum staff and volunteers did an excellent job and the displays and exhibits are in excellent shape.  Here are some images from my visit.

This is the Glenbrook. I made this image from three exposures processed in Photomatix, a High Dynamic Range (HDR) software, and finished as a monochrome image.  HDR utilizes multiple images made at different exposures to bring out the best highlights and details in the shadows.  (I discuss HDR in more detail in this post, https://photorogr.com/2016/03/29/an-amazing-week-for-me/ – go take a look!)

Same image as above, but rendered in color.

The drive wheels on the Inyo. Note the reflection in the floors – Museum staff thinks the floors look better than ever and I agree!

If you think the names on cars are obtrusive, take a look at this! We can clearly see that the Inyo was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia. This decoration/advertisement is displayed between the drive wheels and can be seen in the previous image.

I’ve got to learn the names of the things that make these beautiful machines run.  This is an HDR image.

The firebox and surrounding area of the Glenbrook, processed as an HDR image.

As you can see, I worked on my HDR skills.  I also tried a new technique that I’ve been exploring – focus stacking.  In focus stacking, images are made at different focal planes and then blended together to achieve deep focus in subjects.  The Museum was probably not the best place to work this technique as many of the subjects have curved surfaces, making focus stacking a challenge.  I did it, however, and learned lots about the technique and its challenges.

One of the drive wheels on an engine. I focused on the face of the bolt (at left center), the washer, the face of the drive shaft, the bolt heads on top of the drive shaft, the wheel spokes, and the machinery behind the wheel. The light was at the top of the drive shaft, so everything below was in shadow. I liked the composition.

Inside the cab of one of the engines, a focus stacked image (8 focal planes).

Same image as above, rendered in monochrome.

I was intrigued by this control lever, and made a focus stack using 8 focal planes along the length of the lever. This wouldn’t be possible in a single image, even at a small aperture maximizing depth of field.

The spherical object on the right presented the greatest focus stack challenge, as the gauges were all on the same focal plane.

This is the entire apparatus, 7 focal planes. I worked the image to bring out the patina of the brass as well as the deep focus.

This is a shot from inside the passenger car. I loved how the old glass caused the somewhat rippled appearance of the Inyo cab, against the straight and in focus wood paneling. This was made from two exposures and focal planes, one for the interior and one for the Inyo.

This is the ceiling of the passenger car. The artwork is amazing and the lamps are just gorgeous. I used 8 focal planes to make the image in focus from the front lamp to the wooden header behind the far lamp. As I refine my focus stacking technique, I will use more focal planes for better quality images.

I love focus stacking, and am happy to add it to my photography toolbox.  Just like everything else in my toolbox, its best use is a work in progress.  I hope you enjoyed my revelation and my trip to the Railroad Museum.  A big thanks to the staff for allowing me to visit.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Advertisements

Sharpening continued…and other fun stuff!

In my last post, I introduced the sharpening process and described my first footsteps into its intricacies (yes, I had to look this one up to make sure).  The study is going well, but there’s an amazing amount of information to digest.  I am surprised by the number of tools available.  Unsharp Mask, for example, has its roots in film photography, where wet-darkroom magicians would use a duplicate negative to create a mask to increase the apparent sharpness of a photographic print by increasing contrast along edges.  From the descriptions I read, it was quite a process.  Other digital sharpening tools in Photoshop include Smart Sharpen and Shake Reduction.  Of course, the flip side of digital sharpening is the introduction of digital noise.  (Noise is the grainy appearance of a photograph, and is beyond the scope of this blog, so we’ll save it for another day.)  Lightroom and Camera Raw’s sharpening and noise reduction tools work the same way – very easy to use, and the Nik filters have Define (for noise reduction) and Sharpener (for sharpening).  My head is swimming.

In a feeble attempt to keep myself somewhat sane (those who know me will attest that it’s as good as we can expect) while I’m learning sharpening, I’m still out there looking for great subjects and trying new techniques.  Here’s a few pictures from the last couple weeks.

blnd0053-5-txt0253-w

Okay, this isn’t really a new technique for me, but it’s fun and worthy of continued exploration. For this image, I overlaid a picture of the Ward Charcoal Ovens onto a picture of a wood floor (beautiful texture). I’m looking for a little constructive critique (CC), please!

rogr7170-a-z-w

This is a Merlin, and it’s the latest capture in my quest for new raptor species. (Recall that I also got a Northern Harrier and a Rough Legged Hawk this year.) Merlins are in the Falcon family, and only get to about 12″ tall with a 25″ wingspan – just a little bigger than a Kestrel. This little one was in a tree in my neighbor’s yard and, uncharacteristically, sat for me for several minutes.

rogr7438-e1-w

My lovely bride was with me the other day and she is an excellent spotter. She saw this Great Horned Owl in a tree as we drove by. Some of my friends thought it was a Long Eared Owl, but my resident expert on bird identification confirmed Great Horned (thanks Larry!).

rogr7415-e1-w

Because I like to explore with different filters during processing, I used a vintage colors filter in Nik Silver Efex for this interpretation. This filter is one of my favorites

fcstk7469-77-e1-w

Okay, this is a new technique called focus stacking. I mounted the camera on a tripod and locked it down. I took 5 images of these crabapples on a tree in our backyard, each image using a different focal plane (focusing at different levels) and blended them in Photoshop to create this image with all the crabapples in focus. I’ll refine my focus stacking workflow and use it on flowers this summer!

rogr7463-e1-w

While I was making images for focus stacking, I made this image of an ‘about to drip’ from another crabapple tree in the backyard. When I downloaded these images to the computer, I noticed the inverted tree in pretty good focus. I tried to get closer, but I would have bumped the tree and dislodged the drip. I’ll take it for now, but will look for other drips to shoot.  Aren’t optics fun?

Well, that’s it for this blog.  Stay tuned for more info on sharpening, focus stacking, and macro.  Until next time – enjoy!

PHOTOROGR