This is my first blog page that I have ever written. I hope that you will find it informative and enjoyable. My goals are to post an image a week and give a description of how I created that image. I will also discuss equipment that I used as well as post-processing techniques. I hope to have instructional videos linked to my website as well.
So I would first like to post on this blog my top 5 favorite images from 2015. Here they are:
Bon Secour Bay, Alabama
This image was taken at sunrise at a boat dock right next to my cousin’s house. I got up early, well before sunrise, and positioned myself at the dock. I used my primary lens, which is a Canon 17-40mm f/4 L, a Canon EOS 6D, a B+W polarizer, a Canon shutter cable, and a sturdy Gitzo carbon fiber tripod. I used live view to get sharp focus on the boards just out in front of me. I set my aperture at f/11, which is my sharpest aperture. That gave me a shutter speed of 2.5 seconds. I took one shot on the boards closest to me. I then took another shot for the boards in the middle, and then took a final shot, focused on the end of the dock. I did this because I wanted to create an image with the greatest depth of field but sharp all the way through. This is sometimes called focus-stacking, which is a technique that I use quite often. I also took one more exposure at f/16 to blur the water a little more so it would have smoother look. When I processed the image, I merged the first three images together using the align/blending function in Photoshop CC. I then took the merged image and combined it with the blurred water image (using masking) to get the final product. I also did contrast adjustments and removed a couple of posts that were in the water using the clone tool.
Lower Caney Creek Falls, Bankhead National Forest, Alabama
This image was a simple one to capture and process. Nothing fancy was done here. I used all the same equipment as above, but I also used a 4 stop neutral density filter. This was taken in the fall. I had brought a group of my biology students here the weekend before and even captured an image, but the light wasn’t right. I came back the next weekend, fortunately it was a cloudy day. The clouds acted as a giant lightbox, eliminating the harsh mid-day light. I was standing out in the pool with my camera just above the water. One element that must be present to capture the above phenomenon is a slow moving batch of leaves. Luckily, there was a large batch that day. You need a long exposure to really capture the motion of the leaves. So what I did was use a 4-stop neutral density filter plus my polarizer. This cut down the light about 6-stops. That made my viewfinder pretty dark but not for live view. I focused on the background rocks since the foreground would be blurred anyways. I set the aperture at f/16 to give me the depth of field and the slow motion I needed. The final exposure was 30 seconds, which is usually pleasing for swirls. One of the problems with using most neutral density filters is that they will have a color cast of some kind. Mine usually gives a magenta cast. I adjusted the white balance in Lightroom to fix this. One of these days I am going to spend the money to get one without a color cast, but it isn’t that much of a problem right now for me. Minor curves adjustments and color enhancement was done on the final image in Photoshop CC. I also used a little Orton Effect, which I purchased an action for some time ago.
St. Joseph’s Bay, Florida
This was a rather difficult image to capture because the wind was blowing probably 30 mph. There was no way that I could get the marsh grasses to be sharp without taking multiple images. When I say no way, I mean no way without creating a low quality, horrible looking image. I could have used a high ISO but that degrades the image quality significantly. I used my 70-200mm f/4 L lens, Canon 6D, a shutter cable, and a sturdy Gitzo tripod to capture the image. I hung my camera bag on a hook below my tripod to make it more stable and reduce vibrations. I took several test shots to see what shutter speed I needed to freeze the marsh grasses. Once I knew my shutter speed, that gave me an aperture of f/5.6. At that aperture the depth of field would be very limited, so I shot a series of three images, one for the foreground, one for the middle, and one for the background. I then left my focus on the background and one more exposure, this time an underexposure for the background, so that the final image will merge seamlessly. This was done to account for the contrast range of the scene. So not only shooting for focus, but also bracketing for exposure. Now for the processing, I merged the first three exposures for depth of field using the align/blend function in Photoshop CC. Then I took the merged image and combined it with the darkened exposure for the background (using masking techniques). I then made contrast and color adjustments on the photo as well as added a little Orton Effect. The final product is what you see. The major obstacle was obviously getting the marsh grass sharp. Sharpness is a deal breaker for me when I look at an image. If it isn’t sharp I just throw it out.
Kelly Mill Falls, Bankhead National Forest, Alabama
This image was taken back in June. We received a lot of rain, so I decided to go shoot some waterfalls. This was a new place for me at the time and I look forward to going back there again someday. I tried many compositions and found this one to be the most favorable. I used my 17-40mm f/4 L lens, a B+W polarizer, Canon EOS 6D, shutter cable, and Gitzo tripod to capture this image. This was again a focus-stacked image. I took three shots for depth of field. I focused on the branches closest to me, then the furthest branches on the foreground tree, and then the leaves just over the waterfall. I set my aperture at f/16 for this one so I could get the exposure on the water correct. Using this aperture gave me a shutter speed of 0.8 seconds. For the processing, I merged all three images together for depth of field using the align/blend function in Photoshop CC. I then made adjustments for color and contrast using curves and levels. The final step was to add a little Orton Effect for a more painterly look.
Kayaking Flint Creek, Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, Alabama
This is literally the last image that I made in 2015. I had several shots that I was happy with, but this was my favorite. The sky was amazing all evening. The problem with shooting in this kind of condition is that you can’t use a tripod. Therefore, I needed to find a balance between getting enough depth of field and getting the picture sharp. Fortunately, this was shot several minutes before the actual sunset so there was enough light that I could shoot at f/11. The depth of field was not perfect, but acceptable. This gave me a shutter speed of 1/15 second. This was still a fast enough shutter speed to get the image sharp. To make sure the image is sharp while hand-holding I use the following rule: your shutter speed should be 1/focal length that you are using. This only applies for a stationary object. So I was shooting at a focal length of 24mm so my shutter speed should have been 1/24 sec or faster to get the picture sharp. Well, obviously 1/15 sec wasn’t fast enough for one shot, so I made up for this by firing off a series of shots, in hopes of one being sharp. My Canon lens always does a good job with autofocus (though I rarely use it) and it captured this shot fairly well. I forgot to mention that I rarely use any ISO higher than 100, except when I am in the kayak. In this case, I used ISO 250. The Canon 6D has pretty impressive noise control but I still don’t like pushing it past ISO 800 for large prints. The image processing was pretty simple. I made basic adjustments in Lightroom for white balance, vibrance, and contrast. On this particular image I used a newly purchased software called Topaz Adjust. It is a plug- in that works flawlessly with Photoshop CC. From Lightroom, I opened up the image in Photoshop CC, duplicated the layer, and then opened up the image in Topaz Adjust. I selected the “Brilliant Warm” layer to make the colors pop. This is my favorite layer in the software so far. I then brought the image back in Photoshop CC and made final contrast and luminosity adjustments. The final image is what you see.
Thanks for taking the time to read the specifics. I could have went into much more detail but I will save that for a later time. If you have any questions, then please feel free to email me at email@example.com. To see more of my images, then please visit my website at www.keithbozemanphotography.com.