Archive for August, 2012


Half a moon

   Posted by: John    in Pictures

We have half of a moon hanging over the valley.  I have been working on low light and filtered type shots, so here are a couple I managed to get.  No filters on these, but metered the camera so the moon would not flare badly.  Click to see full size.

Hanging over the trees. ISO-200, f/4.5, 2.5 sec.


As close as I can get. ISO-200, f/32, 1/3 sec.


Smoke in the Air & Boise Depot Revisited

   Posted by: John    in Pictures

It has been very smoky around here the past couple of days.  In fact, the air quality reminds me of Southern California in the 70’s when we would go visit my Grandparents in San Gabriel.  Air was nearly thick enough to slice.  In our case there are some wildfires around and the smoke has just filled the valley. 

It does make for some spectacular sunrises and sunsets though.  Lots of red and orange.  Here’s a couple of pictures of the sunrise I got on the way to work.

Just over the mountain

Higher and brighter

Of course, that doesn’t show the real gross factor.  Here’s a shot of downtown…and note you can barely see the foothills, much less see the mountains.

Yucky air

That is actually better than it was…a light breeze had come up and helped a little.  This was at the Boise Depot.  I was close by and stopped for a couple minutes.  I saw two crews up there doing stuff for evening news casts. 

While I was there I decided to do a couple shots similar to ones I did a couple months ago, but with the graduated filter.  I was trying to reduce the amount of sky flare.

Boise Depot

Not bad, but the issue with the circular filter is apparent…you can rotate it but there is no coverage adjustment on it.  You get about 35% and that’s it.  Still, the sky is not flaring so much that the rest of the picture looks unbalanced. 


Again, the sky flare is quite reduced, but still too prominant.  Note that today the sky was not blue but smoky-white and generally nasty.  There was no real chance of having the blue come out in these photos.  Still, the bright white would have overpowered and unbalanced the picture without the graduated filter knocking it down some.



   Posted by: John    in Critters, Pictures

Saw this on the car window one morning before leaving the house.

Green bug



   Posted by: John    in Pictures

Wow, I just looked outside and the air is nasty and dirty!  Kind of hard to get in a picture, but here are a couple that show the horrible air.

Out the front door

Down the street


More on Neutral Density filters

   Posted by: John    in Pictures

I was tinkering with the variable Neutral Density (ND) filter.  I can see a couple of issues with it.  One, with the variable filter you don’t really know that level it is at.  There are no numbers on it so it is a guess.  The second issue is related to the first.  If you don’t know the actual ND level it is very difficult to determine what settings to use on the camera.  Based on those two things I think Iwill be looking at some fixed ND filters.  Removing the first unknown will largely remove the second.

I was trying to determine what I could use around here to work with the ND filter.  I finally decided that a sprinkler would be interesting.

First, a picture of the sprinkler in action while letting the camera pick the settings.

Sprinkler. ISO-200, f/6.7, 1/180 sec.

The sprinkler is moving pretty fast but you can see individual drops and the spray from the sprinkler itself is fairly defined.  If you look at the spinner there is a lot of detail. 

Next, I used the ND filter.  I don’t know exactly what the setting was but it was probably around an ND-16 level.

With ND filter. ISO-200, f/18, 2 sec.

One of the things I noticed was that the higher the ND level, the more purple the picture becomes.  I am not sure if that is a function of the camera or the variable filter.  I had to do a little color correction to match the first picture.  That said, in the second picture there are no discernable droplets in the air.  The water is a spray, particularly at the spinner.  Note though, that the words on the side of the sprinkler are just as clear in this photo as they are in the first.  The water drops that can be see are not in the air.  They are drops already in place on the grass.

While not a striking example the two pictures do show something of what the ND filter does.  I need to find a nice waterfall or something like that to work with that will give some better results.


Camera Filters

   Posted by: John    in Pictures

I decided to get a couple of things for my camera.  While I have a great camera and some awesome lenses, something I do not have hardly any of is filters.  I decided to start researching filters and see if there was anything out there that I could use to improve my pictures besides post-processing them.

First, it appears that color filters are pretty much unneeded unless you are doing black and white photography or looking at odd color stuff.  The exception would be graduated blue or orange as they appear to be useful for enhancing the colors of the sky.

Second, it looks very useful to have some neutral density (ND) filters.  These are designed to cut down the amount of light going into the camera without altering color.  ND’s come in several flavors…fixed levels of darkness (ND2, ND4, ND8 etc), variable types, and graduated.  The variable goes from about ND3 to black.  The graduated ones have about 45% of the lens darker than the rest, and they typically rotate to allow the graduated part to cover the needed areas.  Fixed are, well, fixed.

Third, polarizers look dark like the neutral density filters, but are used to remove glare.  They do affect the amount of light going into the camera by nature of the way they work, but they can and do alter colors to some degree.

And last, nearly all filters need to be of good quality to be useful.  (Note that there are many other kinds of filters, but these are the ones I am interested in at the moment.)

I already have good polarizers for the lenses I use the most.  I decided to purchase a couple of neutral density filters and start playing around.  I also decided to get them for the telephoto lens as it is a 58mm ring, while the other lens I use the most has a 77mm ring and filters cost considerably more in that size.

I got an ND4 graduated filter first.  This is one that darkens a portion of the frame.  I took the camera out front and took some pictures of a treetop against a bright sky.  Normally when I take these kinds of pictures the sky flares a lot and the subject is dark.  I can often post-process the sky flare down some but then it does not look natural.  Here are two pictures I took of the same thing, the first without a filter, the second with the ND4 graduated filter in place.  Click to see full size.  Note that these 2 pictures are raw from the camera with no post-processing done.

No filter, just a shot of a tree. ISO-200, f/4.8, 1/90 sec.

It is not a very good picture.  Lots of sky flare and the tree looks awful.  I tried several shots while metering different points and this was the best of them.  I put the filter on and make sure the dark part was on the top right corner of the frame.  I metered the exposure through the filtered part and took this picture.

Tree and sky with filter. ISO-200, f/9.5, 1/350 sec.

The sky and clouds are correctly colored and detailed, the tree is just a little dark, but could be very easily corrected without altering the sky.

So…new toy to play with.  I need to get one for the other lens, but I will have to save a few $$$.