Photo Blog

Focus Stacking: Canon 17-55

Today I experimented with focus stacking for product photography.  Essentially, the concept is to take multiple shots of a single object, focusing on different sections and stacking them together in Photoshop to create an all around "focused" image.  Many product photographers (notably Apple) use this technique to add detail to the product. 

The entire process took about 3 hours, from the shot in the studio to carefully sectioning out the parts of focus in Photoshop.  

Though not necessarily as "creative", I feel that this technique is important to understand and try in order to be a balanced photographer.  Other applications of focus stacking include landscapes and low light photography.  

Here's the final product: 

Notice how each part of the lens is fully in focus; normally, the back section would be blurred out due to the depth of field.  More to come from this! 

Until next time!

- IT

Photo Work: Fourth of July Fireworks

Last night my friends and I went to Discovery Park in downtown San Jose to watch the fireworks.  Blue Hour had just ended, and the dark sky provided a wonderful canvas for the fireworks.  The only trouble is finding a good place; the city lights were a concern for me and other photographers out there.  

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Luckily we got a nice spot across the street, save one yellow streetlight.  Not having a lens hood actually was a hindrance for me (I'm not the biggest fan of them, for convenience's sake), but I was able to make do once we saw how high the fireworks were showing.

After observing and taking a few times to learn how to take shots of fireworks, I've been able to gather a few tips:

  • Find your place early.  Sadly, we left our friend's house late and had to run around to find a good spot (there was one really nice area in a parking garage, but a private party took the top floor for who knows what reason), but we eventually came to a spot on the street.  I would've preferred a place with elevation to get a good horizon shot, but you gotta always be flexible.
  • Shoot with a tripod.  Now this one I have a few opinions about.  You'll get a guaranteed crisp, clean shot with a tripod (well, 90% of the time), but if you have a steady arm and a fast enough shutter speed, a tripod isn't always necessary.  If it hadn't been so crowded, I would've loved to being my tripod; however, I was able to make do with just holding the camera for 20 minutes.
  • Aperture f/4-f/16.  Normally, people shoot fireworks with an average Aperture of f/8-f/16, but I took my shots using f/4-f/8 and the results were fine.  In hindsight, an aperture of f/8 would yield better results due to the distance of the fireworks and the spread of the explosions (since the smaller the aperture, the larger the depth of field), but taking careful aim can remediate this.  
  • Shutter Speed 1/6-1/200s. For shutter speed, I experimented with ranges from 1/6s to 1/200s.  Many beginner photographers aren't aware that fireworks are surprisingly bright - their lights push the light meter way above normal in the night sky.  Depending on the type of firework, it may take a few tries to get the ideal lighting down, but the key point is to be aware that fireworks are bursts of light.  That being said, the other factor in shutter speed is the amount of trail you want your fireworks to have.  Have the shutter open longer yields a nice trail, but can put the shot in danger of coming out blurry if you don't have a steady hand.  Have it open too short will yield dark, small lights.  I found my best shots around 1/30-1/100s.  
  • ISO: Keep it as low as possible; more noise will yield a less ideal shot.  I used areas of 200-800.
  • Vertical vs. horizontal.  I liked most of my shots to be vertical (since fireworks fire upwards and leave a nice motion).
  • Double-Exposure.  This was a new feature I tinkered around with on my 70D, and it yielded beautiful results.  Put simply, the camera takes an x amount of exposures and pieces them together to create one image in camera, with various parts of each image overlapping each other. Just be mindful of the area of the fireworks during each shot (so it won't overlap), and that the lighting is ideal; otherwise the shot will be overexposed (I tested out my shutter speed first, 1/30s., then started combining shots).  

Here are couple of the shots I took, also available on Flickr:

They're not exactly the best!  But I'm still learning.  It's a start.  But it's always a learning experience.  What I would do differently would be:

  • Find a higher place to take shots.
  • know my Aperture, Shutter speed, and ISO
  • Use a tripod

Overall, it was a great Fourth of July.  I hope everyone else had a great time with their shots!  

Until next time,

-IT

Hawai'i 2014: Mau'i

Late post but hello again!

This spring I went to Hawai'i.  Making good use of my Sigma 10-20 to get the great landscapes, my family and I went to Mau'i for a few days before going back to their home island of O'ahu.  

Mau'i was an entirely new experience for me - I've never been to the island, so traveling there allowed me to see a myriad of new places I had never seen before.  We stayed at Kihei Beach across the street from the beach, and got to watch the sun set over the Pacific during Golden Hour.

The next day, we went for a 2 1/2 hour drive to see the sunrise from the tallest point on the island, Haleakala.  The place is a popular spot for photographers and travel goers alike, and I wasn't planning to miss it.  We left the hotel around 3:30 in the morning in hopes of getting there around 6am to see the sunrise at 6:20.   

Unfortunately, when we reached the top, it was foggy, windy and rainy.  Although we weren't able to see the sunrise from the top of Haleakala, the rain and fog made for beautiful forest photos around the mountain, namely, the Eucalyptus Forest.  

We drove around the island a bit more during the day and ended up at Kula County.  The view was incredible, and my 10-20 didn't do justice.  The views are absolutely spectacular.  Located a few thousand feet above the sea, we were able to see the entire county all the way down to the ocean.  

Finally, we went to the Iao Valley to see the Needle.  Coming from the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley, it was refreshing to see the beauty of nature.  The overcast weather made for a good day of shooting in the forest-y area, and the abundant rainfall of the valley allowed the lush flora to be the highlight of all the shots.  

After that, we had a great meal at a place called Sansei's in Kihei.  A popular restaurant made by famous chef D.K. Kodama, we had a great meal at a very reasonable price.  We waited in line for about half an hour before it opened: if you're there for the first hour it opens, you get a special 50% off their "happy hour" I believe, it's a great deal!  The only negative was that they didn't take reservations, but with a deal that good, I doubt it would be wise to.  The agedashi tofu (left) was firm yet tender enough to fully enjoy the texture and the flavor.  The spicy tuna rolls were also divine (right); the fish was fresh and tasted magnificent, with a perfect balance of flavor and spice.  The Takoan maki rolls (middle) had rice that was cooked and prepared to perfection.  These were just a few dishes we ordered; you can find more of these items here.  

In the end, I was sad to leave Mau'i.  It was a lot of fun, and I would love to go back to see the sunrise at Haleakala, as well as the other half of the island.  There are many more areas I still need to visit, but this was a great start, and I have so many more pictures to treasure.  If you need a getaway, Mau'i is definitely the place to go to: the relaxed atmosphere, lush fields of sugar cane and pineapples, and beautiful beach sunsets set your mind at ease.   

Until next time,

IT

Delta Sigma Pi Brotherhood Games 2014

I was able to do some mock photoshoots of my friends at Coyote Point, this time in the back area.  I didn't realize how relaxing the place was; I wasn't able to explore it too well until now.

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The sun was out, which always causes problems with no shade, but Lightroom helps fix that a bit.  Luckily volleyball was mostly in the shade, and got a few shots of the Gamma Xi pledge class also!  First place in skit; all thanks to them and the Vice President of Social Activities!

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Sunny days always means extra contrast, so had to really work on inhibiting that extra effect; the polarizer helped a lot on my 10-20 though.  The shot was not too bad as raw, but I like eliminated the darks and adding some color in the end, as well as messing with the RGB curve.

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Until next time!  

- IT

Mission City Creamery

Hey!  It's been a while since I wrote something on here, but lately I've been busy with school and what not.  

Last week I was able to practice my food photography skills in a shoot for my friends' project with a small business called Mission City Creamery. Located in Santa Clara right next to SCU, this place took over Blondie's around last year.  We were sad to see Blondie's go, but were delighted to see an affordable and quality owner take over the local ice cream parlor.

If you have time, come check their stuff out!  They have a lot of foods (not just ice cream) that are insanely good and relatively cheap.  The owner, Chris, was a contractor and now works here after spending his former life almost all over the place. 

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If you ever have time, come visit the place!  It's a small quaint area that's warm and uplifting, giving the nostalgic "old school parlor" atmosphere.  

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Anyways, I used window light to create that "Cooking Recipe" sort of food shot; the ones you see in food magazines (or Pinterest/Tumblr).  Using the 50mm 1.8, I focused on texture and composition as well as color.  Food aesthetic is about making the food look delicious, and even though I didn't use some of the techniques to enhance this (smoke for steam, oil to glaze, etc.) I think I did all right.  

One day I want to be able to do my own food photography with more techniques; the window light was by far the greatest asset I used, but other techniques involve reflectors and flash.  

Hope you're hungry now!  If you're in the area, stop by the parlor, and you can treat yourself to one of these.  

See you next time!

- IT


Delta Sigma Pi Gamma Xi Chapter Initiation for Fall 2013

Congratulations everyone!  

It's been a long 10-12 weeks, but we're proud of the newest members of DSP at Santa Clara University.  They've worked hard to get to where they want to be, and we're optimistic of the things they'll do in the future.  

Also got to test my new 85mm 1.8 lens for portraits!  It was definitely worth the buy.  Took pictures of my friends as well as the new members; take a look!

First Post/Open Floor 2013

Hey everyone!

This is my first post of the entire site, and it just so happens to be one about Open Floor, Monday Night Workshop's first annual NorCal show case!  Hosted by Monday Night Workshop, dancers from around the area came together to see some of their favorite choreographers perform, spreading the love of dance.  Proceeds went to Gawad Kalinga, an organization that raised (and is still raising) funds for the refugees of the Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.  

I had the immense opportunity to be the photographer of the night, capturing the essence of dance through the dancers moves, formations and emotion.  Below are some of the pictures I took, and the link for more on my Facebook Page.  

Facebook: Open Floor 2013

Thank you for taking the time to check out my blog!  There's going to be a lot more where that came from; I hope to make this a huge thing.  

- IT