Digital Photography

Focus Stacking in Oxford.

Focus stacking in photography is a technique used to get the greatest amount of depth of field in a single image by processing multiple images taken at different focus distances. Most of the time we are talking a handful of images. Probably less than 10 for most people. Now all of that changes when you start doing micro photography and use microscope lenses to get your final images.

The video below is about the groundbreaking photographic technique used by Levon Biss for the Oxford University of Natural Sciences. Biss focus stacks as many as 8000 images, moving his camera 10 microns at a time to get his end result. A human hair is about 75 microns, so Biss is moving his camera about an eighth of the width of a human hair to get enough shots to build a final image. The reason for this is because the depth of field on the lenses he is using is so shallow, it is the only way he can produce the results he wants. And those results are pretty damn amazing.

I don’t really get into insects, but I could look at this stuff all day long. Be sure and jump over to his site to see more of this amazing work.

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Nikon “Heartography” Made Grizzler a “Phodographer”.

I want this for my dog. I want this for me. Nikon has developed a camera for your pooch that responds to the dogs heart rate and takes photos according to your dogs level of excitement. Nikon’s Heartography experiment is a 3D-printed custom case for a Nikon camera that can be strapped to your dog to take photos from a dog’s-eye view. The case is connected to a heart-rate monitor strap which is used to track the dogs heartbeat. When the dog’s heart rate spikes, the case tells the camera to snap a photo.

While this is a Nikon experiment its a product I think would sell well. It’s a nice blend of technology, physical product and could have hooks into social media sites like Flickr, Instagram, Google +, and facebook. If you go to the Nikon Heartography site you can see a ton of examples that their canine pal snapped. They aren’t that bad, and large portion of them are as good as most of what I see on Facebook and Instagram these days.

The Selfie Obsessed Olympus EPL7.

In a selfie obsessed world where even the spirit of Narcissus is tired of seeing people pop photos of themselves , Olympus has announced the EPL-7 camera with all the selfie shooters in mind. The tech spec on the camera are all over the internet, and as a camera goes, this looks like a pretty solid micro 4/3 system. What is cracking me up though is the marketing materials on YouTube that they have created. Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s just me being grumpy, but these videos make me say “Get a life. Get some friends and take pictures of them instead of narcissistic yourself. It makes for far more interesting images.” Watching this woman snap shots of her own mug, by herself, while making kissy faces at the camera, just makes me want to laugh. The thing is though, this angle might actually work, with those people that are selfie obsessed and want more than what their smartphone has to offer. For the complete EPL7 selfie channel, click here.

Back in the Saddle.

After five days at Rocky Mountain National Park I’m finding it hard to get back into the swing of things.  Over the course of that five day period I spent 3 days hiking about 25 miles and and taking photos along the way. As the mini vacation wound down, I was hitting my stride and really wished for a couple more days in the park to shoot additional photos and hopefully see a bit more wildlife.

While there, I focused on using two lenses as my primary shooting tools. The Zuiko 17mm f1.8 prime, and the Zuiko 75 to 300mm f4.8 zoom. The 17 was used as a general purpose lens and the 75 to 300 for grabbing distance shots of wildlife in the park. The shots below were all shot as Olympus RAW files that were opened via Adobe Bridge with enhancements being done to the RAW data before opening the file. Once in Photoshop, files were cropped and in some cases merged to create the ultra-wide panoramas.

I’m not going to go into any kind of in-depth review of the two lenses. There is plenty of information on both of them all over the internet, and most give a much more technical review then I ever would. What I will say is this. I rented the 17 to try it out. I’ll be buying it. Hands down it was one of the best primes I’ve shot with on the OMD. I wish we would have had cloudless nights, because I wanted to try it for star trails. Maybe next time. The 17 is a fast focusing, super sharp, ultra quiet lens. The snap ring manual focusing sold it. As for the 75 to 300. It’s a solid lens, but it is by no means a best in class. For the money it was worth every penny. The photos below that were shot with it are annotated with approximate distances to show just how much reach this lens has.

Distance of about 30 feet with the focal length set to about 200mm.

Distance of about 30 feet with the focal length set to about 200mm.

Distance of about 50 yards with a focal length of 300mm. OMD in Black and White mode.

Distance of about 50 yards with a focal length of 300mm. OMD in Black and White mode.

Three images shot with the 17mm merged in Photoshop to create the final composite.

Three images shot with the 17mm merged in Photoshop to create the final composite.

Three images shot with the 17mm merged in Photoshop to create the final composite.

Three images shot with the 17mm merged in Photoshop to create the final composite.

Distance of about 75 yards with the focal length at 300mm.

Distance of about 75 yards with the focal length at 300mm.

17mm at the closest focusing point of about 8 inches

17mm at the closest focusing point of about 8 inches

Oh Polaroid, What Are You Thinking?

Polaroid was an iconic brand that is now a fading giant. If you want a good read on Polaroid and what happened, I highly recommend “Instant: The Story of Polaroid“. It is a look into a corporate giant that lost it’s way and was ultimately devoured by it’s lack of vision and corporate culture after Dr. Land was removed from the company.

Today Polaroid is struggling to stay alive, and like Kodak trying to compete in a world dominated by smartphone cameras, and a different view on photography. I’m a huge fan of what Polaroid was. I think the original SX-70 is one of the most beautiful cameras ever manufactured, and there is a quality to the images that were produced by higher end Polaroid cameras that is unique. At this point though, I’m not sure what is going to happen to Polaroid.

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About a month ago, Polaroid released a new camera. The Polaroid Z 2300. It is a simple point and shoot camera that records images and video to a HDSC card an allows the user to print instant photos via zink ( zero ink) technology in a 2 by 3 inch form factor. The images come with a sticky back, and are ready in a few seconds. Polaroid is banking on the instant gratification, and physical sharability of the images to help sell the camera, and they might be on to something. My issues with the Z 2300 are its limited functionality, lack of connectivity, and the fact that it is an kind of an ugly piece of photo gear.

The Z 2300 is a 4.7 x 3x 1.4 inch black or white  box with a fairly basic 10-megapixel camera. It has the familiar Polaroid rainbow stripe with body styling and details that make this thing feel more like 1995 rather than 2013. It’s retro, but not quite, and that is a big miss for Polaroid. If they are going to pull on the retro vintage heartstrings, why not go all the way and pull a Fuji, or Olympus with solid retro styling like the X-100 or the OMD. I know for many people the physical design isn’t that big a deal, but when the novelty factor of instant printing wears off, Polaroid is going to need something to keep this camera alive.

The Z 2300 features 3-inch LCD that opens to reveal the space for the Zink printer paper, (the same technology that is used in PoGo instant printers). Unlike Polaroid Instant Film, there is no waiting for the picture to develop and it takes less than a minute to print a single photo. Printing can be set via the LCD to print every photo, or selected photos. The camera also lets you add frames or you can print with the classic Polaroid border. There are also color filters that can be added to enhance the retro feel.  Aside from that there isn’t much else. No advanced features to speak of, and no ability to share digital photos, a space Polaroid should probably want to play in.

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You would think that if you are expecting people to shell out more than 150 bucks for this camera, it would have built in WiFi so you could share your photos on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tadaa, Tumblr, Flickr, etc. It just makes sense to play in that space. The combination of a camera that prints instant images, plus shares them to every major social network is much more powerful, than an ugly point and shoot digital camera that lets you print small photos at a cost of about .50 cents a print. ($24.99 for a 50 image pack of Zink paper)

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If Polaroid had teamed up with Instagram, and produced a camera that not only printed instant prints, but shared directly to that service, this could be huge. Unfortunately if you want to share your Z 2300 photos on a social network, you’ll have to take the memory card out, load the photos to another device, and push them out. Not exactly a solid user experience. It’s to bad. I really love the polaroid brand. I really want them to make it another 25 years to the 100 year mark. In order to do that though, they are going to have to do some serious thinking about the state of digital imaging in the 21st century.

Foap, Selling Your Smartphone Pics to the World.

If you are unfamiliar with Foap, you should maybe think about getting acquainted. Especially if you are one of the millions of photo snapping smartphone users around the world. The company allows users to earn money from their photos by uploading them to the Foap platform. The platform like any other stock image house pays royalties on all images purchased through their site. The Foap iOS app is available here if you want to sell your images via Foap to the world.

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The swedish mobile stock photography startup secured another round of funding to the tune of 1.5 million dollars earlier this week. The company is also dipping it’s toes in the American market for the first time, extending it’s user base beyond Europe. In addition to new funding, Foap has launched Foap Missions, a similar service, but for brands who want to build an image gallery for marketing. Foap Missions already has heavy hitter brands like Puma, and Lavazza signed on. Missions works by setting their communities “photo missions”, getting users to upload specific images competing against each other for the best photo. The chosen winner receives a cash reward and their image will then be used in future marketing campaigns for that brand. Additional images from the contest can be bought for $10.

 

 

You Bet Your Tintype.

Every Photographer I know should watch this. Harry Taylor says something in this film about working with antique gear that is absolutely true for anyone shooting digital. Working with tintype photography forces him to slow down and really think about the process, the image, and what he is doing. Everyone shooting with digital gear needs to do just that. Spray and pray will only get you so far.

Directed, Produced, Shot, and Edited by Matt Morris

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