Archive for the ‘Imaging Plus’ Category

Video: Amazing Macro Critters

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

Backscatter pro client Dustin Adamson shares his macro footage as well tips and shooting techniques in the interview below.

Q: Backscatter is a fan of your macro videos! We love your technique of black backgrounds with amazing macro critters. How did you avoid lighting up distracting elements in the background?

I love black backgrounds with macro shots! So I make a concerted effort to get them. Distracting backgrounds are just that…distracting. If something in the frame doesn’t add to the overall image….then it hurts the image. I avoid this by lighting the subject in specific ways. Isolating the subject using light. However, you can’t get black backgrounds all the time. Ambient light needs to be low, early morning, late afternoon, deep water, and night dives are the best ways to achieve this. Another thing that comes into play is the position of the subject. You need some open water space behind the subject. The more the better. I look for this when I am looking for subjects. This is the luck of the draw. Many times I see a critter that isn’t positioned well that I just have to pass up. If there is something directly in back of it, you aren’t getting a black background. I try not to waste time on subjects where the shot isn’t there. Once you have the ambient light low, and a critter in a good spot, aiming of the lights is all you have left. I wish there was a silver bullet for a lighting position, but it really depends on the position of the subject, as well as background elements. The idea is to aim the light to just touch the subject. If the subject is in a bad position, I will sometimes use spot mode on my video lights to avoid lighting a distracting background. This can be tough to accomplish, especially with moving subjects. It takes practice and a lot of patience.

Q: Your subjects have great texture from the shadows created by expert lighting positions. What light position tips would you share with an inspiring underwater videographer?

There is not one light position that works for all shots. When I first started, that was what I was looking for, but it just doesn’t work that way. Practicing different lighting positions is what helped me. I’d recommend a new videographer to start out with a stable subject like a nudibranch, or Christmas tree worm and light each subject with at least three different angles. Reviewing these results will show how different positions and shadows look on your subjects. In general, start with your lights positioned about 6-12 inches higher than your camera lens and almost above your subject. Watch the edge of of your light and tilt your light heads until only your subject is illuminated. Watch the shadows change as you move your lights around. Also, certain subjects may require different lighting positions due to sensitivity. For example, a nudibranch for the most part can be lit in many different angles. However a Ghost Pipefish is traditionally shy and bothered by light and is best lit from above limiting the light to their eyes. Too much light especially with macro can be a problem. Make sure you don’t overexpose the subject, which can be easy to do with macro subjects.  

Q: Please let us know more about your gear. What makes up your primary camera system?

My current setup is as follows:
Camera – Canon 5d MarkII
Underwater Housing – Ikelite Housing for Canon 5DMarkII
Macro Lenses – Canon 100mm Macro 2.8L, Canon 16-35mm F4L
Wide Angle Lenses – Canon 15mm 2.8 fisheye, Canon 8-15mm F4 fisheye
Lighting – Light & Motion Sola 4000’s, Light & Motion Sola 2100

Q: Capturing images like yours require an enormous amount of patience and knowledge of the subjects. What are your tips on safely approaching animals and setting yourself up for the best shot angle?

First of all you have to find the subjects. And while I am getting better at this, I still rely heavily on local guides. They are amazing and rarely disappoint. Going with a dive operation that caters to photographers is also key. They know what photographers want and how they like to dive. They help find the shots you are looking for. They understand when you stay with a subject for the entire dive, while a regular dive operation you may feel pressured to keep up with a group. Once a subject is located, I stop and assess the situation. Often times my wife, Tyra, is photographing the subject, so I get to really think about how I am going to setup for the shot. At this point, I adjust my tripod legs and lights to the approximate position they need to be. This allows minimal adjustments to minimize the sounds and movements that might scare the subjects once I set the rig down. I also, sometimes shine the light on the subject before I put the tripod down just so the subject gets used to the light. Once down, always try to focus on the eyes. This is what the viewer looks at. And with a DSLR in particular, the shallow depth of field is extremely difficult. Out of focus eyes are a huge turn off for the viewer. One other thing of note. When shooting macro and using a tripod, it is good to go to places that the environment supports it. You don’t want to destroy coral by setting your tripod on it. Places like Lembeh, Anilao, Bali, Milne Bay PNG, are all places that have sand, rubble, muck type of environments which is perfect for macro shooting with a tripod.

Q: All of your images are rock solid. What tips do you have for selecting and using a tripod system?

A good tripod is certainly a must for good macro work. You want a tripod base that is wide. This will give you stability in high current. It is also nice out of the water as a nice base to stabilize your housing on a boat or camera table. I also use the tripod for wide angle for static shots as well as using the legs for a wide handle to help with stability while hand holding. I use the Xit404 Tripod Plate for Ikelite as well as the XIT404 Twist Clamp Leg. The twist clamp legs save so much time, and allow for quick and easy adjustments. While a tripod is important so are other factors that you might not think of. Once you have your camera in place, and have hit record, back your face away from the back of the housing. Your exhales can shake the housing, and have minor shaking in your footage. Also, I have found arms such as ULCS Ultralight arms to be better than Flexarm or Locline arms. don’t shake the housing as much as a locline style of arm in current.

ABOUT DUSTIN ADAMSON:

Backscatter

Dustin Adamson

Dustin Adamson is a multi-international award winning underwater cinematographer. He was certified to scuba dive back in 1996. Based out of Salt Lake City, Utah, he is completely self taught, and has been filming since 2011. In 2002, he married his wife Tyra Adamson, an accomplished underwater photographer in her own right. They both own and operate www.OceanShutter.com. His favorite underwater subjects to film are of the small variety. However, he still enjoys filming all underwater creatures. Having traveled all over the world, he is always searching for the perfect shot. In 2015, Dustin had the honor of being invited to be a member of the Ocean Artists Society.

To learn more about Dustin, please see www.facebook.com/oceanshutter and www.oceanshutter.com/

Imaging: How To Take Your Photos To The Extreme In Post Production

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

TAKE IT TO 11

Why take your RAW adjustments to 11? Because it’s one louder than 10, as Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel so aptly put it. “Taking it to 11” refers to taking something to an extreme — I usually don’t recommend taking post-processing to an extreme, but there are times when a little extra juice from Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) really does the trick.

Maxing It Out

How to take your RAW photos to the max in post production

Erin Quigley

This image of schooling barracuda is way too blue. After white balancing in Lightroom or ACR, I’ve maxed out both the Temp (blue/yellow) and Tint (green/pink) sliders, but I still don’t have the effect that I really want.

I’d like to make the fish more neutral, without having to resort to any elaborate painting or masking.

It would be fab if I could push the White Balance sliders just a little bit beyond their limits — to 11, if you will.

By using a Smart Object workflow in Photoshop, I can.

What Is A Smart Object?

What is a Smart Object in Photoshop

A Smart Object is a Photoshop layer that packages selected image data and embeds it into a special container. This container maintains nondestructive editing capacities for whatever’s embedded inside. Although any layer or combination of layers can be transformed into a Smart Object, only Smart Objects coming straight from Lightroom or ACR will maintain actual RAW image data. In this case I’ll create a Smart Object that embeds the RAW file of the barracuda, along with the Lightroom Develop module adjustments that have already been made to the file.

To open a Smart Object from Lightroom, go to Photo>Edit In>Open as Smart Object in Photoshop.

To open a Smart Object from ACR, hold down the Shift key and click on the Open Object button at the bottom of the window.

A Smart Object can be identified by the small icon at the bottom right of its layer thumbnail. To re-edit the embedded RAW image from within the Smart Object, double-click on the Smart Object thumbnail, and ACR will open. Notice that the original Lightroom Develop module adjustments or initial ACR settings are maintained. By using a Smart Object workflow, you can access and re-edit these settings directly from Photoshop’s layers panel.

Turn It Up to 11 with a Camera RAW Smart Filter

How to use a camera RAW smart filter

To be able to re-edit RAW settings directly from a Photoshop layer is useful on its own, but the object is to go beyond the limits of the original ACR sliders. To do that, a Camera Raw Smart Filter is called for. To add a Camera Raw Smart Filter, go to Filter>Camera Raw Filter. A new ACR window will open automatically.

When I add a Camera Raw Smart Filter to the barracuda Smart Object, I get a clean new ACR window. Because the sliders in the new window start at zero, I can add more of whatever settings are maxed out in the original ACR adjustments.
By sliding the zeroed-out Temp slider to the right toward yellow, I get extra oomph from my white balance. The adjustment knocks back the remaining blue on the fish, and I’m much happier. I could not have achieved this white balance with an ordinary Lightroom or ACR adjustment. At this point, I can jiggle more sliders, brushes or filters on either the original Smart Object ACR settings or the Camera Raw Smart Filter to finish my editing.

Smart Filter Functions

Functions of a Smart Filter in Photoshop

  1. To toggle a Smart Filter’s visibility, click the eyeball next to it on and off.
  2. To reopen a Smart Filter, double-click on its name in the Layers panel.
  3. Smart Filters have their own layer mask. When the layer mask is active, painting on the image with black conceals the effect of the Smart Filter in the painted area. This makes every tool in ACR a potentially local tool.
  4. Smart Filters have a separate blending mode and opacity control accessed by clicking on the small lines-and-arrows icon at the bottom right of the layer.

Saving Smart Objects

When you create a Smart Object in Photoshop via Lightroom, saving the Photoshop document puts the layered Smart Object file into the same folder as the original file and amends the file name to reflect its Smart Object status. The next time you look at the image in Lightroom, you’ll see the Smart Object version right next to the original in the grid. When a Smart Object is created via Adobe Camera Raw, saving the Smart Object opens a Save As dialogue box, which lets you rename the file and save it to the location you wish.

Get Your Hands Dirty

The language of Smart Objects and Smart Filters can be confusing, but push past the mumbo-jumbo. Don’t be afraid to experiment. All the adjustments are completely nondestructive, and mastering this technique will pay off as an excellent addition to your post-production arsenal.


Erin Quigley is an Adobe ACE certified digital-imaging consultant and an award-winning shooter. GoAskErin.com provides custom tutorials and one-on-one instruction for the underwater photographic community.

Imaging: How To Take Your Photos To The Extreme In Post Production

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

TAKE IT TO 11

Why take your RAW adjustments to 11? Because it’s one louder than 10, as Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel so aptly put it. “Taking it to 11” refers to taking something to an extreme — I usually don’t recommend taking post-processing to an extreme, but there are times when a little extra juice from Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) really does the trick.

Maxing It Out

How to take your RAW photos to the max in post production

Erin Quigley

This image of schooling barracuda is way too blue. After white balancing in Lightroom or ACR, I’ve maxed out both the Temp (blue/yellow) and Tint (green/pink) sliders, but I still don’t have the effect that I really want.

I’d like to make the fish more neutral, without having to resort to any elaborate painting or masking.

It would be fab if I could push the White Balance sliders just a little bit beyond their limits — to 11, if you will.

By using a Smart Object workflow in Photoshop, I can.

What Is A Smart Object?

What is a Smart Object in Photoshop

A Smart Object is a Photoshop layer that packages selected image data and embeds it into a special container. This container maintains nondestructive editing capacities for whatever’s embedded inside. Although any layer or combination of layers can be transformed into a Smart Object, only Smart Objects coming straight from Lightroom or ACR will maintain actual RAW image data. In this case I’ll create a Smart Object that embeds the RAW file of the barracuda, along with the Lightroom Develop module adjustments that have already been made to the file.

To open a Smart Object from Lightroom, go to Photo>Edit In>Open as Smart Object in Photoshop.

To open a Smart Object from ACR, hold down the Shift key and click on the Open Object button at the bottom of the window.

A Smart Object can be identified by the small icon at the bottom right of its layer thumbnail. To re-edit the embedded RAW image from within the Smart Object, double-click on the Smart Object thumbnail, and ACR will open. Notice that the original Lightroom Develop module adjustments or initial ACR settings are maintained. By using a Smart Object workflow, you can access and re-edit these settings directly from Photoshop’s layers panel.

Turn It Up to 11 with a Camera RAW Smart Filter

How to use a camera RAW smart filter

To be able to re-edit RAW settings directly from a Photoshop layer is useful on its own, but the object is to go beyond the limits of the original ACR sliders. To do that, a Camera Raw Smart Filter is called for. To add a Camera Raw Smart Filter, go to Filter>Camera Raw Filter. A new ACR window will open automatically.

When I add a Camera Raw Smart Filter to the barracuda Smart Object, I get a clean new ACR window. Because the sliders in the new window start at zero, I can add more of whatever settings are maxed out in the original ACR adjustments.
By sliding the zeroed-out Temp slider to the right toward yellow, I get extra oomph from my white balance. The adjustment knocks back the remaining blue on the fish, and I’m much happier. I could not have achieved this white balance with an ordinary Lightroom or ACR adjustment. At this point, I can jiggle more sliders, brushes or filters on either the original Smart Object ACR settings or the Camera Raw Smart Filter to finish my editing.

Smart Filter Functions

Functions of a Smart Filter in Photoshop

  1. To toggle a Smart Filter’s visibility, click the eyeball next to it on and off.
  2. To reopen a Smart Filter, double-click on its name in the Layers panel.
  3. Smart Filters have their own layer mask. When the layer mask is active, painting on the image with black conceals the effect of the Smart Filter in the painted area. This makes every tool in ACR a potentially local tool.
  4. Smart Filters have a separate blending mode and opacity control accessed by clicking on the small lines-and-arrows icon at the bottom right of the layer.

Saving Smart Objects

When you create a Smart Object in Photoshop via Lightroom, saving the Photoshop document puts the layered Smart Object file into the same folder as the original file and amends the file name to reflect its Smart Object status. The next time you look at the image in Lightroom, you’ll see the Smart Object version right next to the original in the grid. When a Smart Object is created via Adobe Camera Raw, saving the Smart Object opens a Save As dialogue box, which lets you rename the file and save it to the location you wish.

Get Your Hands Dirty

The language of Smart Objects and Smart Filters can be confusing, but push past the mumbo-jumbo. Don’t be afraid to experiment. All the adjustments are completely nondestructive, and mastering this technique will pay off as an excellent addition to your post-production arsenal.


Erin Quigley is an Adobe ACE certified digital-imaging consultant and an award-winning shooter. GoAskErin.com provides custom tutorials and one-on-one instruction for the underwater photographic community.

Imaging: How To Flag Your Best Photos Using Adobe Lightroom

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

Not all photos are contest winners. Cut down on the underachievers in your image library by flagging keepers versus clunkers right of the bat as Lightroom imports them.

You only need to remember three letters on your keyboard: “P” for Flag, “X” for Reject and “U” for Unflag. Getting in the habit of making a quick first pass every time you import will keep your catalog lean and mean. You can get to work immediately after hitting the Import button. There’s no need to wait for the import to complete, or for previews to finish rendering.

KEEPERS, CLUNKERS OR CAN’T-DECIDES

Select an imported image and hit the space bar. You’ll be looking at a single image in Loupe view. Is it a keeper, a clunker or a can’t-decide?

Adobe Lightroom Tutorial: Flagging and Rejecting Photos

Erin Quigley

If it’s a keeper, press the “P” key to flag the image as a pick. A small white flag appears in the tool bar, and also in the upper-left corner of the image thumbnail in Grid view.

If it’s a clunker, press the “X” key to set the image as rejected. This time you’ll see a small black flag, and the Grid view thumbnail will be grayed out. Note that hitting “X” does not delete the image but simply marks it as rejected.

If you can’t decide whether the image is a keeper or a clunker, skip it and use the right arrow key on your keyboard to advance to the next image. If you change your mind about an image that you’ve already flagged, hit the “U” key to unflag it.

DITCH THE DUDS

Once you’ve made it through the entire import, do away with the duds. Either go to Photo>Delete Rejected Photos in the top Library menu or use the keyboard shortcut Command-Delete (Mac), or Control-Delete (PC) to gather the rejected images together for deletion.

Adobe Lightroom Tutorial: Deleting Rejected Photos

Erin Quigley

In the Delete Rejected Photos dialogue box, make sure to choose Delete from Disk, and not the default choice, Remove. If you choose Remove, the images will be removed from the Lightroom catalog but will remain on your drive, cluttering up your library and lying in wait to cause chaos and confusion later on.

COMPARE AND SURVEY

When you have to decide between very similar images or pick the best from a series, Lightroom’s Compare and Survey views are there to help. Compare view shows you two images side by side; Survey view tiles multiple images on a single screen.

Adobe Lightroom Tutorial: How To Compare And Survey Photos

Erin Quigley

To use Compare view, select two or more images and click the Compare view icon. The keyboard shortcut is “C.”

By default, the left preview is Select and the right is Candidate. Click on an image to activate it. You’ll see a narrow, white frame around the active image.

The Select preview is fixed; the Candidate preview can be changed for comparison with Select. Clicking the right or left arrow replaces the Candidate with the next image in the folder in the direction of the arrow, allowing you to see if there’s a better Select. If you find one, click on the Make Select or Swap icon, then continue the process until you’ve found the best Select.

To zoom in on both previews simultaneously, make sure the lock icon on the tool bar is closed and slide the Zoom slider right next to it. Unlocking the lock icon lets you zoom in on only the active preview. Pressing the Sync button matches the zoom on both previews. I use this all the time to compare eye sharpness.

To use Survey view, select a group of photos. Click the Survey View icon or use the keyboard shortcut “N.”

Click on an image to select it in the Survey window. Roll the cursor over it to reveal flagging and other rating options. Clicking the “X” in the bottom-right corner of the preview removes a photo from the group but doesn’t flag it or delete it from Lightroom, so make sure to flag rejects before removing them. Eliminate photos one by one until you’ve narrowed them down to just the best.

Erin Quigley is an Adobe ACE certified digital-imaging consultant and an award-winning shooter. GoAskErin.com provides custom tutorials and one-on-one instruction for the underwater photographic community.

Video: Manta Flight

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

Berkley White, owner of Backscatter, shares his meditation on mantas and top shooting techniques.

Q: Where did you shoot your short film Manta Flight?

This sequence was shot in the Maldives a few years ago. I’ve been running small group expeditions to the Maldives over the last five years to photograph hundreds of mantas that gather in the atolls every fall. I made this edit to open the Monterey Underwater Film Festival. I wanted to get people into the zen of underwater so I focused on the slower paced and graceful maneuvers mantas perform around the shallow cleaning stations. Swimming along side these animals is a magical experience. It’s simply amazing how they can glide with such little effort.

Q: What are your secrets for shooting such steady video?

I almost always have lights mounted to my system. I don’t always turn them on, but I find the extra mass slows down camera movement and gives the camera a more solid feel. I helped design the XIT404 Tripod Plate and keep it mounted to the bottom of my housing. When shooting subjects like mantas, I only mount one tripod leg to the plate. I keep this leg extended on the left side of my housing and it allows me to maintain a wide grip with my hands. If your hands are wider than your shoulders you’ll naturally maintain more stable and fluid camera movements. I also use relatively short full foot fins and use a flutter style kick. Large freediving type fins require a long kick stroke and I find this can add a slight left to right tilt of the camera when swimming fast.

Q: What camera and lenses did you use?

This footage was shot on a Canon 1Dx with a Sigma 15mm fisheye lens in a Nauticam Housing. I’ve since upgraded to the Canon 1Dc camera as it offers 4K video recording. I’m a big fan of Canon DSLR cameras for video as they offer excellent white balance underwater. Both of these larger camera bodies allow you to store five different manual white balance settings and I find this invaluable when the action heats up. You can shoot excellent 1080p video with the Canon 5D mkIII, but it does not feature multiple white balance options.

Q: You mentioned lights. Did you use lights for this footage?

I had lights on camera when shooting this footage, but I only turned them on for the long intro sequence to light the glassy sweepers. The majority of the footage is shot with just a manual white balance. I didn’t color correct this sequence it’s just as it came out of the camera. My current wide angle lights are the Keldan Video 8M Lights. They feature a 9000 lumen output and a soft wide beam. 9000 lumens might sound ridiculously bright, but if you shoot much in shallow water you’ll find times when even 9000 lumens can’t out compete the sun. For macro I typically use Sola 2100 Spot / Flood Lights in spot mode. It’s a little tricky to aim a spot from behind the camera, but a spot light doesn’t light up a cluttered background and keeps focus on the subject.

Q: What underwater camera would you recommend to a new photographer on a budget?

You don’t have to spend $2K-$10K on a camera to get great footage and have fun in the process. Good technique is most of the battle. I recommend divers on a budget to read our Best Underwater Compact Cameras of 2015 Review. It helps break down the difference between GoPro cameras, compacts, and mirrorless options. I shoot both stills and video and prefer a camera that handles both modes well. GoPros are a good option for video on a budget, but are less functional when it comes to photos. Thus, I typically recommend people consider compact and mirrorless camera options for better performance and flexibility for both video and photo. Lower cost cameras have more limitations, but great shooting techniques will create amazing results with even the simplest of cameras.

ABOUT BERKLEY WHITE:

Berkley White

Berkley White, owner of Backscatter, shares his meditation on mantas and top shooting techniques.

Berkley White is the founder of Backscatter Underwater Video & Photo which has grown to be the largest underwater photographic equipment supplier is the USA. Since 1994, Backscatter helped develop a community of local cold water divers and has now spent years supporting a thriving tribe of international artists, film makers, and first time shooters from it’s locations in Monterey, California and Derry, New Hampshire in the USA. For more about Backscatter or articles on equipment and technique, please see
www.backscatter.com

Berkley’s images and technical articles are regularly published in international magazines and he regularly serves a photographic judge or technical editor on publications. He is also a major promoter for educational events designed for both industry and consumer users such as the Digital Shootout and the DEMA Imaging Center. To learn more about his intensive educational events, please see www.thedigitalshootout.com.

Berkley runs a limited schedule of exotic photo safaris each year. From the warm diverse waters of Indonesia to the cold adventure of Alaska, Berkley’s shared adventures are always scheduled to be at the best time with the best local knowledge for image makers. For a complete schedule of events, please see his travel company at www.underexposures.com.