Sunday, November 20, 2016

Toy RC Helicopter

This weekend's subject was photo stacking a smaller subject than the Walking Shoes projects.  I have a small, very small, RC helicopter I bought a few years ago to keep me occupied for a Christmas Day.  The Cats were not amused.
The toy has been sitting on the shelf since then.
Before I get into the toy, I thought a look into what I am now calling the dungeon.  I've set aside a corner in our basement for my photographic equipment.  I have two tables set up - one has the mat cutting equipment and the other is the table top studio.

So far, the single lighting source into the umbrella is doing the trick.  I have been very happy with the results.  That tip alone was well worth the gas money to Procam and back.
On to the helicopter.
The goal was to test the Helicon Remote (PC) and Focus programs with something other than the default settings.
Over the course of the day, I found out a few things that sound like I should have known them before today, but like most things I have learned I needed to see it for myself.
The first thing I figured out, is don't be so fast to jump to a RAW format.  As RAW files are larger, guess what?  Yep - they take longer to process.  That probably cost me a hour.  Lesson learned, unless there is a reason for RAW format or you are just testing go with a medium JPG format.
Another lesson, it appears that the smaller f/stop (larger opening) doesn't always mean a clearer product.  i found in the course of the shooting that for some reason, the tail section would never come out clear when I was shooting f/2.  Not sure if it was the complexity of the section, or the backdrop or a combination of the two.  I would see clear shots in the stack, but in the processing it never came out.  I'm sure there is a way to clean that up, but that is time I'd rather not take.  When I shot a stack at f/4.5 and f/8 the tail section came in very nicely.  Lesson learned, if you have the time take multiple sets with different aperture settings.  I believe it can make a difference.
Next lesson, complex subjects can be frustrating.  I'll define complex as having multiple points of focus that overlap.  In this case, I spent a lot of time moving the rotor blades so they didn't overlap the body.  The more independent each element, the better.  It took me a while to get this straight, and coupled with the RAW image lesson, there was a lot of time consumed.  Lesson learned, practice, practice, practice.  Note: I always go back to my first stacking adventure, the DMRRC shoot.  These were not so much complex shots, for the most part the scenery was uncomplicated.  There was depth, but none of it was overlapping.
And probably the last lesson for the day, when it comes to rendering the photos there is always room for improvement.  In this case, methods A and B worked best when the radius and smoothing values were set to 1.  And while that was fun trying to figure those settings - option C worked the best with no extra effort.  The Helicon vendor website said that most of the default settings would work most of the time.  Don't believe it - explore.
So on to the Helicopter, again.
Using two different DOF web calculators with the following:  Camera D7200 crop sensor, distance to subject of 24 inches with 50 mm lens set to f/8 gives me a DOF of just under 2 inches.  The helicopter is 7 inches long, plus maybe 2.5 inches for the front rotor blade.  Something isn't going to fit.
This is one of the mid-photos in the stack where the focus is just forward of the rotor.

The front looks OK, but from roughly half way back on the tail the sharpness is fading.

With a 16 shot photostack, this is the image:

And a close up of the tail section:

The tail section is sharp all the way through.

So that is the stack part - done in JPG.

And the Blog version:

As this project was done in JPG, I'm stuck with the coloring of the backdrop and soften the object shadow a bit.  Still in the learning process.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Walking Shoes II

Had a really good photo related day on Saturday.  I started with a few hours at ProCam in Livonia for their Demo Days event.  I had a few subjects to address while I was there - and all were taken care of.
First, I had the sensors cleaned on the D90 and D7200.  Pretty reasonable price and they did it while I was there.
Next I wanted to see what the Nikon 200-500 lens really looked and felt like.  I did.  Yea, I could have bugged the store people about it at any other time, but on Saturday I could bug the Nikon Rep.  It's bigger and heavier than I thought.  What I found out is I need to include in that purchase price a mono-pod.  The lens is coming in at around 5 pounds, its not a real mobile thing.  Good information.  Still in the running.
I'll get to the walking shoes.
I also needed to chat with someone about lighting for the downstairs studio, aka Grandpa's (Munster) laboratory or dungeon.  In the first effort with the walking shoes (Walking Shoes) I thought the subject was OK, but the environment was not.  I was mostly concerned with correcting the shadows cast on the backdrop.  The first thing I could correct was moving the backdrop back a bit, and that's easy to do.  But that might not be enough, I needed to get to the light source.  So I needed to chat with someone about the dungeon lighting.
Seriously, I'll get to the walking shoes.
I found a sales rep for Westcott, a seller of studio lighting materials.  Condensing the story, he said I had everything pretty much all wrong.  (I take things like this well, as I hear it a lot.)  I had used two table lamps on the previous walking shoes photo.  The light was OK - but I did get unwanted shadows.
The sales rep's suggestion was to use the modeling light on one of my White Lightnings into an umbrella to expand the light source and see what that does.  Go down to one light?  Less is better, right?
I was all for that - I already have the stuff.  No extra $$$s necessary.
Now to the walking shoes.
I set up the environment so the backdrop was more relaxed and back off the subject.  I used one overhead light with the full power of the modeling light into an umbrella.
I used a nine shot photostack.  I changed the defaults on the Helicon program to take two shots per focus step instead of one.  More is better, right?
And one other teenie weenie change, I returned to processing RAW files.  (I was playing with JPGs earlier because in the stacking learning curve, I didn't want to confuse any issues.)
On the previous project, the light temperature from the table top lamps came out pretty close to what I would want.  In this new set up, not even close.

Looks like a bizarre autumn warming filter was used.  There's some heavy tungsten temps.  Maybe some white reflection from the umbrella as well.  For reference, the backdrop is black.  Seriously.
Maybe I've lived under a rock for most my photographic journey, but I've never really had to play with white balance before.  I remember trying to find a neutral spot on photographs and identifying it to Lightroom in hopes of making a difference I couldn't see.  But in this case, I need to do something.  So in PS raw editor, moved the WB from AS SHOT to AUTO.  Bingo!  I was in the ball park.  It was that easy.
After I hit it with the WB change, I applied a custom color profile file I created for the studio.
So, here are the vitals:  I used the D90 with a 50mm prime lens.  ISO was set to 200, Aperture was f/2.8, speed was 1/6 second.  I used Helicon Remote to calculate and manage the shots.  I used Helicon Focus to merge the nine shots.  

I hit it with a bit of NIK's HDR filters and Glow.  (Hey, it's still me.)  On the original file, you can increases to 100% and it is tack sharp everywhere, even in the color transition areas.  I attribute that improvement over the previous version of Walking Shoes to doubling the number of shots per focus step in Helicon Remote.
The walking shoes set up was a fun learning experience.  This project is closed.  Time to move on.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Walking Shoes

I've been working with Helicon Remote and Focus.  These programs are primarily used for focus stacking.
The Remote product serves two purposes.  I wanted a better tethering application than the base Nikon product.  The Remote product works on both my Samsung Tablet and my W10 laptop.  That is HUGE.  The product will control everything except a zoom function.
When I have the table attached to my camera, via WiFi, I can place the camera in places that are hard for me to use the live view and control the focus points plus all other elements.  I've configured the application to save the files on the camera which has more space than on the tablet.  I can use this when working on a location.
When I have the laptop attached to the camera via USB, I have the same control but I have the images sent to the laptop.  From there I can run the Focus program to verify the image is as I want it.
The entire package is a bit on the pricey side, that is north of $100.  After a few days of testing, for me it is worth it.
So this is my first public effort with the new package.  The goal is to be ultra sharp through the entire subject (running shoes).  The bonus is that even with a HDR effect, still very sharp.
The vitals:  f/1.8, 1/40th second, ISO 400.  The lens is a Nikon nifty 50.

First effort - not bad.