Saturday, October 31, 2009

Camera-Critters #82: Chipmunk

We photographed this brave chipmunk at Tuolumne on the Tioga Road when we drove from Yosemite to Mono Lake at Eastern Sierra. It shows how men and wild animals can live peacefully together in a perfect nature environment such as National Park.

It eventually braved itself and came close enough to a tourist to pick up a cherry from her hand. This probably break the National Park rule of not feeding the wild animals. But, it is so cute!!

To see more camera-critters from around the world click here.

The Making of a Panoramic Picture

This is the giant boulder, El Capitan at Yosemite. The day started with a very misty morning followed by a downpour in the early afternoon. The sky finally started to clear up in the late afternoon, on the way back from Tunnel View, we were presented with this amazing sun light shined on El Capitan. Grace snapped three shots that she mean for me to make a panoramic image. The proper way of shooting images for photomerge into panoramic image requires that all images be shot at exactly the same condition and preferably on a tripod with special panoramic platform. This was not the case for these images. The pictures were shot at WB set at A (automatic) and Aperture Priority. Thus both the With Balance and Exposure were different for the three images. Fortunately, the pictures were shot in RAW.

I first opened the three images in Nikon Capture NX2 and set the WB into Direct Sunlight. I then adjusted the "Picture Control" to "Landscape" to give them added contrast and sharpness. I adjusted the exposure compensation to decrease the middle image by 0.87 stop and the left image by 1.67 stop. The three images are now all in exactly the same condition. I then saved them as non-compressed TIFE files. Because I knew that I would do several further modifications of the images in Photoshop and Capture NX2, repeated compression in JEPG format would certainly degrade the quality of the images.

I opened the three images in Photoshop and photomerged them into a panoramic image. The merged picture showed clearly a prospective distortion, since she shot the image from an upward position. The distortion was corrected using Filter>Distort>Lens Correction of Photoshop. I re-cropped the image, the center upper part of the sky had a gap, I refilled it with the Stamp tool. I now saved the panoramic image in TIFE and reopened it in Capture NX2.

I used Shadow Protection to give the forest at the lower left side of the image more light and played around the Curve to further improve the overall contrast and saturation of the image. Now it is almost done, I saved the image, reopened it in Photoshop and applied the final Smart Sharpen (141%, 0.2 pixel, lens blur, more accurate) step as recommended by Ken Rockwell. When looking at 100%, there is some noise in the shadow area, since we did not use any noise reduction either in camera or during the post-processing. It is typical for the the Nikon D90/D300. The full-frame D700 would be better. But I doubt that I will see this noise in the final print.

The final image in non-compressed TIFE is 176.3 MB or just over 30 MP. I can make a non-interpolated print of 300 dpi at 24.7 x 13.9 inches. If not using the Photomerge and the computer softwares, we would need a medium format digital camera with a PC lens to get an image with such detail.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Skywatch Friday No. 68: Sunrise at Mono Lake

Grace and I were on a photographic tour with Dave Wyman and Ken Rockwell at Yosemite and Eastern Sierra. This picture was taken from the vista point on route 395 looking over Mono Lake toward east at 6:57 AM on October 23.

Driving further north and looking west as the sun rose, we can see the Mt. Conness bathed under the glorious early morning sun light.

To see more skies from around the world click here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Camera-Critters #80 & Today's Flower 62

Grace and I are traveling in the US for the following one month. We will spend the next 10 days at Yosemite and Sierra to photograph Fall color. Thus we are posting a single blog for Camera-Critters and Today's Flower. Can you see the critter in this picture? It is the yellow mantises on the leave.

Can you find the critter in this one? It is the green mantises perfectly camouflaged itself behind the stem.

Here is a closer look. The black dots in its compound eyes actually followed my movement. It tried to hide from me behind the stem.

Now where is the critter in this picture? It is the ant at the center of the picture. Can you see it?

To see more Camera-Critters from around the world click here.

To see more flowers from around the world click here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Skywatch Friday No. 66: Sunset at "Miss Olive"

A view of sunset from the the balcony of "Miss Olive" at Northern Coast of Taiwan.

Turning the camera away from the west, the cloud showed even more glorious color.

To see more sky from around the world click here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

ABC Wednesday: M is for Miss Olive

In our SWF posting a few weeks ago, we posted a picture of sunset from a beach at Northern Coast of Taiwan. Our blogging friend J commented, "I feel like I want to be at an outside table with some dinner and beer." That was exactly what we did when Grace came back from the US at the end of September. We went to a hotel/spa/restaurant on the beach called "Miss Olive".

The restaurant is on the third floor, the second floor is hotel/spa. The hotel only has three rooms.

The hotel has very much the feeling of villa hotel at Bali. Sitting on the balcony with a drink in hand waiting for the sunset, it made us felt that we were almost at South Pacific.

The food was alright, but the sunset was really fantastic. Check out our blog of SKW this coming Friday.

We were not the only person enjoying the sunset. The balcony extends way out from the building so people can have clear view of the ocean. We sneaked several pictures of these two lovely ladies enjoying themselves on the balcony. From their expression, they may have as good pictures on their cell phones as we have on our heavy Nikon.

To see more entries of ABC Wednesday click here.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Today's Flowers #61: Flowers of SOGO

Ah! What is it? Wall flowers?

It is at the entrance of SOGO department store in one of the suburbs of Taipei. It was just opened not too long ago. Taiwan now almost have no native department stores anymore, most of them have their roots in Japan. But they are wholly owned and operated by Taiwanese owners.

Here is the whole view of the store. It has three others in the center part of Taipei. It has been one of the more luxurious and up-scale one. We went to the store last Saturday, the Chinese moon festival day. Many people in Taipei went home to the south of Taiwan for family reunion. A Typhoon was coming again, we could not see the moon at all.

To see more real flowers from around the world click here.

Skywatch Friday No. 65 & Camera-Critters 79

This is a common tern just ready to plunge-dive into the ocean for its meal. I photographed the bird at South Cape Beach over at Cape Cod during the summer. In the background was a huge kite flied by a beach goer.

Lucky bird, it got its fish.

Now it is ready for another assault.

To see more sky from around the world click here.

To see more Camera-Critters from around the world click here.

Double Ten: National Day for ROC

Today is October 10 (double Ten), the National Day of Republic of China. 98 years ago in 1911, under the leadership of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, the feudal dynasty of Ching was overthrew in China. A new republic, the Republic of China (ROC) was formed.

In 1949, the Chinese communist party under the leadership of Chairman Mao defeated the ROC government led by Chiang Kai-Shek of KMT (Chinese Nationalist Party) in Mainland China and formed the People's Republic of Chna (PRC). ROC government retreated to Taiwan. The PRC just celebrated its 60 years anniversary. ROC will celebrate its 100 years anniversary in 2011. The pictures shows the national flag of ROC at the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial of Taipei.

Photomerge for Landscape

When doing a landscape photography, with so many details in the picture, how can we show all of them as sharp as possible? This is what I set out to do today to try the often mention technique of photomerge to increase the pixel density of the picture. This picture was photomerged by Photoshop CS4 using two photographs taken by Nikon D700 and 80-400 mm VR lens at 175 mm. With the telephoto lens, I can count on that each photo will have very fine detail of the landscape. When two picture merged, I have a broad view of the scene with the same kind of detail. I can enlarge the female figure in the picture to see her facial expression without any difficulty.

If I set out to do this picture using the D700, a 12 megapixel camera using only one picture, since the picture has a dimension of 1:3 as compare to the original format of 4:6, the picture would only have 1/2 of the original pixel size, 6 megapixel. On the other hand, the merged photograph has about 20 megapixel. It is even larger than the picture from the 24.5 megapixel camera D3x, because when the picture from D3x is trimmed to 1:3 dimension, it will have only 12.25 megapixel.

Some details of the technique: 1. Try to use the same exposure for both pictures; 2. Try to place the focusing point for both pictures at the overlapping area; 3. Try to use telephoto lens to get the detail; 4. Try to us "cylindrical" during photomerge in Photoshop CS4.

We will go to Yosemite latter next week to shot landscape for fall color. We hope we will put this technique into good use.

Photomerge for Fisheye Effect

This technique is very similar to the technique described in "Photomerge for Landscape" with some difference. The pictures used for this photomerge are taken using a wide-angle lens and when doing the photomerge in the Photoshope CS4, use "spherical" rather than "cylindrical".

It is more fun to use this technique for architectures than for landscape.

Monday, October 5, 2009

ABC Wednesday: L is for Luxury

Quanta Computer is the largest notebook computer ODM manufacturer in the world. The vice-chairman of the company has three lovely daughters. One day, one of the daughter told the father that she had an idea of opening a coffee shop. Several years and 300 millions US$ later, they opened the most luxurious shopping center in Taiwan, Bella Vita, in September. The building was completely built by marble. The lower building is three stories high and houses the shopping center. The taller building contains spa and private club.

The shopping center has the most prestigious stores from Europe. Some of the stores have private viewing room and the shopping center provides valet parking for its VIP customers. But when we visited the place two weeks ago, only a few shops were ready for business. The grand central hall with its marvelous skylight was packed with curious visitors just came to admire the most luxurious shopping center in Taipei.

At the side entrance, we photographed the window of this expensive dinnerware store. You can barely see Grace in the picture. The blue reflection on the top is the reflection of the ceiling of the side entrance.

Van Cleef & Arpels is the very prestigious jeweler from Paris. It brought some of the best of its collections for the opening. One diamond ring worths over US$3 million was sold on the first day.

Here is the set of "Jardin d'Extrême Orient" from the new "Les Jardins" collection of Van Cleef & Arpels.

Apparently Far East is recovering economically faster than the rest of world.

To see more entries of ABC Wednesday click here.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Today's Flowers #60: Flowers of Colorado

This picture of this beautiful flower field was taken in front of the Colorado State Capital at Denver.

This the truck of the aspen tree that Grace took when she visited the Kenosha Pass, Colorado two weeks ago.

We believe these are the wild Aster flowers.

Is the color of this picture amazing!!

Grace was glad that she got to it before the wind did.

To see more flowers from around the world click here.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Camera-Critters #78: Cattle Egret

After coming back from Cape Cod, I have not shown any bird photography at Camera-Critters. We have posted four series of butterflies from the Flying Cow Ranch. I thought I will change the scene a bit and post the Cattle Egret that I photographed at the Ranch.

Cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) likes to stay around buffalos and cows in the field thus the name. The feathers of the head and neck change to color yellow in the mating season of spring. I photographed it once in that color early this year.

I took the picture with my Nikon D300 and 70-300 mm VR lens. I usually do my bird photography with my D700 and 80-400 VR lens. 400 mm on a full-frame D700 is just a little bit shorter than 300 mm on a D300 (450 mm). But I love the high ISO capability and the resolution of the D700. This time I have the 105 mm micro lens on the D700 for the butterfly photography and have no mood of carrying the heavy 80-400 mm VR lens under the 100°C temperature. However, as you can see from this picture, the combination of of D300 and 70-300 mm VR lens still did a magnificent job. It is a lot lighter in weight to carry around.

Too see more Camera-Critters from around the world click here.

Cattle Egret in Mating Season

As I described in my Camera-Critters post that the Cattle Egrets change part of their color from white to yellow during the mating season in spring. I photographed this one in flight alone a river near Taipei. It was taken with my D300 and 80-400 mm VR lens. At the time, I just purchased the lens and have not yet had the D700. The shot was taken at 35 mm equivalent of 600 mm hand-held. For more technical detail: the lens was on VR; Exposure: spot metering, f5.6, 1/2000; Focus Mode: Continous; AF-Area Mode: Dynamic-area AF. How marvelous the modern technology is!!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Skywatch Friday No. 64: Denver, Colorado

Colorado State Capital

Civic Center Park

Denver Art Museum.

Civic Center, Culture Complex

Denver Public Library

Civic Center, Culture Complex

I (Grace) was at Denver, Colorado for a business meeting two weeks ago. When I arrived at the airport on Friday night, it was pouring rain. However, the next day, the sky was gorgeous. I got to comfortably walk around the city to photograph some of the old and new architectures of the city.

To see more sky from around the world click here.


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