" March 2016 "

Nik is now free

Back in 2012, Google bought NIK Software and the photography community wondered what Google would do with their new found acquisition.  Well, they made the bold step of making it free as of this week.  Normally $150, this is a great deal.  Snap it up now and give it a whirl.

I’ll post some more details on using the software in the coming weeks, but I thought I would post an image that I edited with Nik’s HDR Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro.  The image was taken at Hong Kong Disneyland.

Monorail Monday Sunset

Happy Monday everyone! For today’s post, I’d like to go through the steps I took to capture this photo over the weekend:

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Everyone loves an epic monorail shot. This one was actually the second photo I had taken of this monorail passing by. The first one was on the other side of the walkway facing the Odyssey building and the Test Track building. I completely botched that one, but as soon as I snapped it, I played Disney Frogger and evaded a bunch of people making their way through this part of the park to also capture the monorail coming through past this beautiful Flower and Garden Festival bed and the Imagination pavilion.

So, let’s talk settings. I knew that it was a pretty nice sunset, so I wanted to capture the colors in the sky. The water wasn’t as important, so I actually dialed down my exposure compensation to a -1. This made the edit on the computer a little more complicated, but it got me the oranges and yellows, so I was ok with it. I was in Manual mode, and had set my shutter speed to 1/320, my aperture at f/4, and my ISO to Auto. Since I would be running across the walkway, I really wouldn’t have time to set up everything and figure out the ISO on my own, so I elected to use the Auto ISO. With those settings, my camera decided to give me an ISO of 800.

Once getting home and seeing the shot on the computer, it was pretty underexposed. But, the colors were there, and the last bit of sunlight for the day was kissing the monorail, so I was happy. I warmed up the White Balance a tiny bit, and then did my normal editing process, which includes toning down the highlights a tad, lifting shadows, adding some contrast and saturation, and then sharpening. On a normal daytime image (and even some nighttime ones), that does the trick. But with this one, there were some other complications. The water area was essentially black. So, in Lightroom, I clicked on the little brush in the Develop module, and set my brush to be +1.20 on the Exposure dial, and I proceeded to brush the whole bottom of the photo. I got what you see in the finished result, but from pushing the sensor that way, there was some noise, so I also added some Noise Reduction, but only to the area that had already been brushed.

I also thought the sky could use a little bit more punch, so I created a second brush, boosted the saturation to about +35, and then brushed the entire sky.

At that point, you have the image seen here. Sunset images do tend to take a little more work to get going, but once you arrive at a point you like, they are rather satisfying. Have you ever shot the monorail, or anywhere at WDW at sunset? What tips do you have for everyone? Please let us know in the comments below.

For those curious, this was shot with the Sony a7 and the Rokinon 14mm f2.8 lens, both of which can be purchased at our Amazon store, along with anything else you may need for your daily life. Anything you purchase after clicking the link helps keep the site alive, at no cost to you! Thanks for reading!

What Happens When You Change Your F-Stop

Happy Monday everyone! For today’s post, we’re going to take a look at what happened when you adjust your aperture, or F-Stop. Understanding what this means is a crucial part of understanding photography, and knowing what situations to use certain apertures in can make the difference between nailing the shot and missing it.

That said, I have a composition from Hollywood Studios over in the Muppet area. I took the same shot roughly six times, starting at 1.8 and then moving up one full stop every shot, until I hit f/9. Check them out!

f/1.8

f/1.8

f/2.5

f/2.5

f/3.5

f/3.5

f/5

f/5

f/7.1

f/7.1

f/9

f/9

So, there are a few things to notice here. When you start at the lower numeric value, like 1.8, the corners are darker. This is called vignetting, and it happens the most at a lens’ most shallow aperture. Some people like that, others don’t. It’s really up to the artist whether to keep the natural vignette, or to correct it in software like Lightroom or Photoshop. The vignetting goes away the higher the f-stop number goes.

You’ll also notice that at f/1.8, the fellas in the boat are nice and sharp, but nothing else is. Using that works really well when doing portraits for a dramatic look, or when you are in low light and want to keep your ISO as low as possible. Once you get up to f/5.6 and higher, you start to see more things in focus and sharp across the entire range of the frame. For most landscape photos, you’ll want to do that to ensure sharpness. But, a higher aperture number will also require a slower shutter speed or bumping up your ISO, so be ready for that.

You may also notice, depending on the quality of the lens, that shooting with a lower f-stop number not only ensures sharpness on only certain parts of the photo, but you may see some softness due to the razor thin depth of field. Because of this, any time you are shooting stage shows or action, like Disney parades, that sacrificing some of that smooth bokeh may be worth it to get a sharp shot.

Hopefully reading about this can help you understand apertures a little bit better and improve your shots the next you are out in the field. The many variations on the Muppets were taken with the Sony a7 and the Zeiss 55mm F1.8, both of which can be purchased over at our Amazon store. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, thanks for reading!