2017, A Review

In what I hope to make an annual thing, I’d like to use this post to look back over 2017.  The travels, what cameras/lenses I favored, and what my favorite images of the year are.  Here we go, starting with the most straight forward items.

The Technical Stuff

In 2017, I created 21,446 photos and 268 videos.  This makes 2017 my second most prolific year of photography, after only 2016.  It was only slightly above 2011, which is now in 3rd place.

Images Per Year

2017, like 2016, was dominated by a single trip – in this case, my trip to Greenland.  This trip was responsible for 13,298 of the photos and videos.  2017 was otherwise a very low-photo year.  My lowest since 2012, when I last moved across the country.

For cameras per year, it is clear, I favored the D750 over the D800, which is the second year in a row.

It really wasn’t even close.  I think the weight of the camera, combined with the high burst rate really led me to favor this camera.  I also like to use this camera for night time time-lapse/star trails, which artificially inflates the camera usage – 1000 photos taken may only result in 1 final image.

The Leica is the only camera on the list that I do not own.  I had the chance to use it for an afternoon, which was a ton of fun.

My favorite lens for 2017 was the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8, followed closely by the Nikon 24-120 f/4.  It actually surprises me that the 70-200 is so high up on this list.  This is due to my Greenland trip where I heavily favored this lens.  The Greenland trip was responsible for 5481 of the 6984 photos taken with this lens in 2017.

I know that simply a large number of images doesn’t equate to a large number of images you like.  A large number of images only means you consume a lot of space on external disk drives, which 2017 certainly did.  2017 consumed 814 GiB, which is certainly a record for me.

The breakdown of Camera:Lens combinations is:


Originally I was going to put my favorite images of 2017 in this space, but I’ve decided to hold that for a new post in the next week or so.  Knowing me, it will take longer, but we shall see.

The Good Stuff – New Stuff

2017 was a small year for purchases.  I purchased a new camera bag for international travel and a new travel laptop.

The Good Stuff – Travels

My trip to Greenland was by far the largest excursion of 2017.  Other than this trip, I had a weekend in Utah; some day trips in and around Seattle; and some visits to family that allowed me to take some photos.

The Bad Stuff – Repairs and Damage

I hope this section doesn’t have large entries every year.  But this year has a frustrating entry.

This year, my D750 was subject to a recall on the shutter.  When I received the camera back after the first repair, there were issues with the reassembly of the camera.  It had to go back in to be reassembled properly.  I was lucky, as the camera nearly didn’t make it back to me for my Greenland trip.  But, I am also thankful to Nikon who went out of their way to ensure that happened.  I am also quite thankful that my D750 has a brand new shutter.  While my D750 has taken nearly 30,000 photos, the shutter only has around 6900.  The D750 will likely continue to be in use for 3-6 more years.

Outside of this, my gear experienced nothing more than normal wear and tear.


Let’s now look at my plans for this current year.

Due to job-related reasons, I’ve relocated from the PNW to Pennsylvania.  But I’ve found a nice place near my new job and not too far from the outdoors.  So I’ll be photographing a new area of the country with new parks and things to explore.  I’ll also be visiting the Atlantic Ocean, which is fun.

In 2018 I hope to have a few more business-oriented aspects to my photography.  Until now, it has been mostly for fun.  In this new year, I hope to pursue tasks which offset the cost of my camera gear and travels.  More details as they become available and I can actually make them happen.

I’m also testing the water with video and learning the basics of producing a video.  I have an idea that I hope to launch in 2018.

Until the next post


The Math of the F/Stop Progression

As a quick post, I’m going to mention something that everyone seems to have difficulty with.  This is a little math-heavy and I’ll try to simplify it.

F/stop progressions.  Why do I have to double my shutter speed when going from F/2.0 to F/2.8?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to double my shutter speed when I go from F/2.0 to F/4.0?

The F/stop is related to the diameter of the aperture of the lens, or the width of the circle of light that shines on the sensor or film.  The key word here is ‘circle’.

Everyone remembers that the area of a circle is area = pi * r^2.  The number in the F/stop is related to the Diameter, which is 2 * radius.  If you want to cut the area of the circle in half, you need to divide the diameter (and thus the radius) by the squareroot of 2.  The squareroot of 2 is 1.4142136 … but for our purposes, 1.4 is good enough.

This is why the F/stop progression is 2.0, 2.8, 4.0, 5.6, etc.  Each of these numbers are about 1.4 apart (2 * 1.4 = 2.8, 2.8 * 1.4 = 2 * (1.4 * 1.4) = 2 * 2 = 4).  Each stop is the same as increasing the diameter/radius by 1.4, and doubling the size of the opening.

Now you may be thinking to yourself, “self, this makes it look like the numbers are in reverse order”.  The piece to understanding the order is in how the F/stop is normally stylized, F/2.8, F/4.0, etc.  The / in math means divided by.  It means the aperture is set to the focal length divided by the number represented in the F/stop.  For example, on a 120mm lens, at F/4.0, the aperture is 120mm/4.0 or 30mm.  If we stop down to F/8.0, the aperture is 15mm.  A circle with a 30mm diameter has an area 4 times the size of a circle with a 15mm diameter, thus, F/8.0 lets through one quarter the light of F/4.0, and is a change of ‘2 stops’.

I hope this helps understand everyone understand one of the less obvious parts of photography.


Compressed RAW Files

This post is my thoughts on this well intended, but slightly misguided, post on Digital Photography School.  NOTE – this post was written in June of 2016, if something changes, updates will be noted here.

Personally, I always shoot at 14-bit Compressed RAW.  For me, it is better to shoot at 14 vs 12.  While using 14-bit does create larger files, for me, this is not an issue.  But, I do not work weddings or sports where shooting 14-bit may clog down the system due to processing large numbers of large files.

Now, I like math.  I like math a lot.  I also understand light and electronics.  Here are my thoughts.

14 bit raw does not buy you much except when it does.  To fully explain what it buys, I have to explain how your eye works vs how an image sensor works.  I’m going to use an example.

If you take a room with 1 lit candle, then add 1 more lit candle, your eye will really notice the difference.  If you take a room with 1000 lit candles, then light one more, your eye will not notice this at all.  This is because your eye works on relative brightness.  Doubling the light is very different vs an increase of 0.1%.  However, a camera works off of absolute brightness, which means that both examples are the same increase in brightness, or an increase of 1 candle.  Minute Physics has an explanation of this.

With the Gamma Curve, and relative brightness levels, what does the bit-ness mean and what does it give you?

The simplest answer – the bit-ness matters in the shadows and the shadow detail.  If you have a well lit scene with very little shadow detail, there will likely be no easily discernible difference in 12 vs 14 bit.  There will certainly be differences between 12 and 14 bit RAWs, but they are mostly in the file size and the after capture flexibility.  The less you want to push the shadows in the final image (vs at capture) the less 14 bit matters.  If you shoot HDR or shoot brackets for some kind of HDR usage, you should be fine with 12 bit.

In this part, I do not disagree with the DPS post.

Where I do severely disagree with the post is in compression.  This part of the discussion shows where the author lacks computer science skills.

Side note – this is about lossless compression only, and is based on my experience with Nikon cameras.  This does not cover lossy RAW, which is available on Nikon and Sony cameras.  Nor does it talk about sRAW files.

Much like how in photography every choice you make is a trade-off, compression is the same.  But in compression, the trade-off is more interesting.

Let’s take a file that is 100MB.  In this situation, the file can be compressed to 60MB with 1 additional second for processing time.  This file can be uncompressed with a modern CPU in half a second.  The question very quickly becomes — does compression make sense?  The next question is, how long does it take to compress the file, and is the storage system able to handle uncompressed vs compressed faster.  For storing the file, if you can transfer 20MB/sec, the 100MB file takes 5 seconds to transfer and the compressed file takes 1 second to compress and 3 seconds to transfer, for a savings of 1 second.  If you can transfer 100MB/sec, the larger file transfers in 1 second, and the smaller file transfers in 1.6 seconds.

If you shoot compressed RAW, opening the file on a computer later could take slightly longer (due to needing to decompress the file).  But a computer normally is fast enough that this doesn’t matter.  You may not notice a difference in the compressed file vs the uncompressed, especially if you have a SSD and a CPU from the last 3-4 years.

Compression may shorten the battery life on your camera.  The longer the camera CPU and sensor are idle, the better your battery life.  Transferring and compressing both use power.  With a relatively new camera, this is unlikely to make a difference of more than 5% change in the number of images per charge.  My DSLRs can shoot nearly 1000 images on a single charge, so +/-50 isn’t a huge deal.  With a modern camera and a slower memory card, it is more likely that you notice that images save faster if you use compression.  Only once you hit the fastest of the fast for memory cards (say, a latest generation QXD card) would compression increase the time required to save a RAW to the memory card.  I am not saying you should buy cheaper cards, but I am saying that most people will not need the fastest generation of cards, and would be better off buying 2-3 of the previous generation of cards for the same price.  Also, if you compress your files, they will take up around 30% less space on the card, making those 3 64GB last gen cards even better than the 1 128GB current gen card.

In short, the math proves that for the vast majority of people, compressed RAWs will be a benefit.  I will be happy to edit/append this post if I am wrong within the next 2-3 years (note, the year this post was written or updated).


Working With LightRoom Keywords

This is a post I’ve been wanting to work on for a long time. This will be a much more technical post than normal.  Sometime I may write more about how I specifically use Keywords.

But first, some background information on how I use Keywords in LR. There are 3 components to Keywords.

  1. Exportable Keywords – this is what the majority of keywords are
  2. Non Exportable Keywords – these allow you to build trees of keywords
  3. Synonyms – these are alternative words to a keyword

Toplevel Keyword List

For the most part, all of the folders shown are Top Level and set to be Non Exportable. I use this system because it lets me build a folder system to store my Keywords, but these do not show up when you export the file. This ensures that your storage folder for ‘Water Features’ is not alphabetically near your location folder for ‘Wales’ or ‘Whales’.

I also use Non Exportable Keywords for family members or exact locations of homes. For example, if I am at a family wedding, and I want to tag my cousin, I might use the non exportable keyword hierarchy of “Smith Family” -> “NY Smiths” -> “David”. If I am careful with my tagging, I can quickly find all photos of my cousin David Smith from the NY side of the family in the future using the LR Keyword search feature. In LR CC 2015 the feature was added to mark a Keyword as ‘People’, which is also a non exportable form of a keyword. I don’t use this right now because it would require me to redo a lot of my tags.

Let’s expand my ‘WORLD LOCATIONS’ folder to see why I use these Non Exportable items.

In this example, I’ve expanded my World Locations, and the subfolder ‘Europe’. This allows me to store all of my location keywords in one place, keeping them separate from other keywords (e.g., “sunrise”, “waterfall”) which may occur almost anywhere in the world.

One of the benefits to making subfolders that are exportable is that you do not need to add those Keywords to your list, they are automatically added on Export. In the case of ‘Rovaneimi’, I’ve added this label to around 1000 photos. But, Rovaneimi is a city in Lapland, which is in Finland. All I need to do is add the Keyword ‘Rovaneimi’ to a photo, and ‘Lapland’, ‘Finland’, and ‘Europe’ will all be added on export. If I wanted, I could make my folder structure something like Europe -> Finoscandanavia -> Finland -> Lapland -> Rovaneimi. It is up to you. For me, folder structure this in depth would normally require justification. I currently live in Seattle. Because I photograph here a lot, I’ve separated the USA into regions. My Seattle photos have North America -> USA -> Pacific Northwest -> Washington -> Seattle. If I had under 10 US States, this extra level of US Regions may not be needed.  Until I had about 20 US States, I kept each one as a sub of USA.

The final part of Keywords I want to explain is Synonyms or Aliases. These allow you to automatically add an additional Keyword to an existing Keyword. These Synonyms are exported as if they are an additional Keyword.

I use these in several different ways. I live in the United States. In the US, all states have a full name and a 2-letter abbreviation. So states like “Pennsylvania” have a 2-letter code of “PA”. Canadian states, like “British Columbia”, also have abbreviations, like “BC”. I can set my label to be “Pennsylvania” or “British Columbia” and set synonyms of “PA” or “BC”.  Obviously, there can be keyword collisions.  One that I frequently run into is that an old camera of mine, the Canon S30, has a tag for ‘S30’.  ‘S30’ is also an old version of the Nissan Z series, which is something I did not find out until searches for ‘S30’ became one of the biggest drivers to my Flickr photos.

I also like to set variations of words in my Synonyms. Last year, I was inside of a “Glacier Cave”. I found that I wasn’t being as consistent as I should have been, and ended up with the additional Keywords of “Glacial Caves”, “Glacial Cave”, and “Glacier Caves”.

If something has 2 different names, it is really easy to use a synonym to add both named in 1 Keyword. For example, “Northern Lights” is a synonym for “Aurora Borealis”. “Aurora Australis” is a synonym for “Southern Lights”. Or if you prefer, you can make “Aurora Borealis” as the Keyword, and “Northern Lights” as the synonym.

In addition to this, I use synonyms is for non-english variations of words or locations. What do I mean? If I go visit Munich, Germany, the locals would spell the city as “Munchen” and the country as “Deutschland”. I like to keep my Keyword as the English version, but add the name in the local language as a synonym. This doesn’t mean I can, or do, add every variation of a place, but I try to use the US English and Local variations.  I would not, for example, add Londres as a synonym for London, nor would I add Pays-Bas for The Netherlands.  I would likely add Uluru as a synonym for Ayers Rock, or perhaps the other way around.

I’ll also add variations for letters that do not exist in English. An example of this is my labels for Thingvellier National Park in Iceland. Icelandic has Thorn and Eth, 2 characters that no longer exist in English. My aliases for Thingvellier are “Þingvellir National Park“, “Þingvellir“, and “Thingvellir“. My sub Keywords are “Geysir“, “Gullfoss“, and “Oxararfoss“. Oxararfoss has a Synonym of “Öxarárfoss“. By using synonyms like this, I can keep my list alphabetized in the way I can remember.

All of this is great information. But what does it do for you? How do you really take advantage of it?

The real power comes from Lightroom’s ability to import and export keyword lists. If we export our keyword list, we can reverse engineer how to build new keyword lists for import.

Let’s look at a partial export for my own World Locations-

Schoenbrunn Palace
{Schönbrunn Palace}
{Other Variation}

What does this export tell us? A Top Level, like “WORLD LOCATIONS” has no indentation. Each sub item is a line lower, with an extra tab. So my “Europe” is actually a “[Tab]Europe”, and my “Austria” is “[Tab][Tab]Austria”. We also see that Synonyms are situated in the same place as a sub item, but are surrounded by {} type brackets. We can also see that Non Exportable items are surrounded by Square Brackets – [].

With this information, it is reasonable to assume that this is also the format that can be imported. Since this is really text, it should not be difficult to manipulate with a programming language like perl or python. It should also not be too difficult to create an input format for the purposes of outputting in the format required for a LR import.

Why do I mention all of this?  Because I’m working on building something like this for myself.  Once I have something that mostly works, I’ll release the code.  I had planned on doing this weeks ago, it is just taking longer than anticipated.


#thedress and White Balance as an Artistic Choice

Hello everyone.

I realize I’m getting into this conversation well after it is relevant, but I was on vacation.

When #thedress went viral, it sparked a big conversation about how we see color.  Our eyes have evolved over a few million years [citation needed] to be able to evaluate the color in the surrounding environment to be able to subtract other colors and figure out what is the actual color of an item.

Personally, I performed an experiment where I would open and close the blinds on a window, and watch the color “change”.  It was fascinating to watch the perceived colors of an object change as the light source in my room changed.

So how does this relate to photography?

This is how ‘white balance’ works on digital cameras.  The electronics will evaluate the scene and attempt to handle this adjustment for you. If you’ve ever set your white balance to ‘cloudy’ on a sunny day, only to realize your photos have a yellow color when you get home, this is white balance (setting your white balance to sunny on a cloudy day will result in blue photos).

Normally, your camera’s auto white balance is good.  Not perfect, but good.  It will almost always be a little blue or a little yellow, but will usually be close enough that most people will not notice.

The other side of white balance is the purple/green color cast.  Outside of fairly unusual situations, this is something that most people will never notice.  Cameras will frequently favor green, which our eyes are more sensitive to, and we will end up liking it more with the green cast.

Since I like unusual situations, here is an example of the auto white balance not handling purple/green properly.

At first glace, this photo looks really cool.  There’s 2 people out taking photos underneath an aurora.

After a few minutes of letting your eyes adjust, you may start to notice that everything is probably more purple than it should be (especially the snow, that should really be close to white).  Why did this happen?  This goes back to the electronics guessing what is white.  Much like #thedress, the electronics of the camera and software of the computer are evaluating the scene and trying to guess what is the correct balance for blue/yellow and purple/green.  Due to the green of the aurora (an unusual situation for most images), the camera assumes it needs to compensate by giving the image a purple tint.  Normally, this would be the correct choice. In this situation, it is the incorrect choice.

This situation is easy to correct.  We move the slider (I use Adobe Lightroom, I’m sure other applications have something similar) for purple/green about 60 units, and we end up with this image.

So, what does this all mean?  Well, if you add a lot of blue to the scene, it can feel cooler or colder, while adding yellow makes the scene warmer.  Adding too much purple often looks like a mistake, while adding more green or yellow generally makes the image more liked.

If you want to take this further, you can use a tool like the paintbrush tool in Lightroom to paint different white balances in different parts of the scene.

Let’s take an example.  Recently, I was at the Jökulsárlón Iceberg Graveyard in Iceland.  It was a fairly cloudy day, but, the ice had this really amazing blue color.  When I was able to transfer the photos, the photos no longer had the correct ‘blue’.

This photo has some processing performed already.  The black point did not get set properly (the beach was black sand), so it was fixed for this photo.  For comparison, here is the photo before I fixed the black point.

Setting your black and white points is more important to printing than it is for composing to a screen.  But it does help to illustrate just how different the camera senses the world than our eyes do.  It also helps to illustrate part of the trend called Shoot to the Right, or STTR, which is probably a good topic for another day.

Back to the photo.  Since the resulting image was not a good representation of 1) What I wanted, or 2) What the beach looked like, I decided to fix the issue.  By taking a brush tool in Lightroom and painting in a bluer white balance on the ice, I was able to create a very blue iceberg on a black sand beach, which is what I wanted.

Looking back at other photos, this is likely more blue than reality.  But that is ok.  I chose to make it more blue to give it a cooler feeling, it is, after all, ice.

For a sunset, you may wish to selectively paint on a more yellow white balance to give that section of the image a warmer feeling.

But what happens if we give the cool/blue ice a yellower white balance?

Wow, that looks terrible.  I’ll leave it to the reader to decide exactly what shade of yellow that is.  One thing is certain, it has lost that cool/ice feeling that the heavy blue image had.

If we adjust the temperature (blue/yellow) and tint (green/purple), we can actually change the ice to a variety of strange colors.  Orange (yellow + purple), purple, green, turquoise (green + blue), etc, are all possibilities.  Some of these possibilities are better than others.

Much like in #thedress, colors can change based on other items in and out of the scene.  As a photographer, you can control the various elements in a scene to emphasize what you are trying to show, and balance the temperatures to support the main subject.


Things I Enjoy – Smartphone Photography

Many of us have a lot of equipment.

Since I’m preparing for a trip, I may be a bit more aware of how much I have right now than other times of the year. On this trip, I’ll be carrying a primary and backup body, as well as a Micro 4:3 camera because it is small and easy to carry. My brother is coming with me, and for at last part of the trip, will be using my backup body as his primary. As a result, I’ll be carrying at least 8 lenses, vs the normal 3-4.

Sometimes, I just need a break from swapping lenses and use something that is as simple as possible. Enter the smart phone, something I carry with me at almost all times. It only has a handful of options, which means you don’t need to focus on if you should swap out the big lens for a macro because it is a bit annoying to swap with all of these people around and it is raining.

With a smartphone you generally only have a few options, 4:3, Square, Pano. And the entire device fits easily in a pocket.

When I first started using a smartphone, it was to get a quick picture on FB or for SMS to a friend or relative.


Haha you are at work and I am here!

Or one of my favorites, “Here is my camera ready to take a picture tonight”.


This is the setup for taking a photo at Bandon Beach, Oregon at Sunset

And of course a “Well, that was dumb” type of image.


The result of being caught in a rainstorm with my camera

The entire camera is designed for much worse than this.  It looks kind of bad, but, everything is weather sealed and I’ve had it in worse conditions.

For a long time, I never really thought of a smartphone as a real camera. Then I was out on a rooftop deck in Seattle during an amazing sunset, and my phone managed to capture this image.


Seattle Sunset

Oh wow, that is actually really nice.  I also enjoy wide angle photography, and, while I’m not totally certain, I think this image is fairly wide angle.

The real turning point for me was when I posted a photo from my iPhone and it was mistaken for a photo from my DSLR.


Photo from an iPhone 5S, Fisherman’s Bridge, Rovaniemi Finland

I got far too many ‘wow, but you only got this photo because you have a nice camera’ comments.

One thing that I really enjoy about the iPhone is the automatic panorama stitching.  I’m sure it is available on Android, BB, WinPhone, etc, but I’ve only used the iOS version.

Panorama of Mt. St. Helens in Washington State

Panorama of Mt. St. Helens in Washington State

Yes, one could take a dozen photos with a DSLR and stitch them later, but there really is something amazing about the instant results.  Plus, my phone handles ghosting really well.

After some practice, I took a quick panorama during my trip to a volcano and a beach in Costa Rica.

Panorama from the Poas Volcano in Costa Rica

Panorama from the Poas Volcano in Costa Rica


Tortugas Island, on the Pacific Side of Costa Rica

I really started to enjoy the panorama format.  And I enjoy how easy and fast it is when using my phone.

This last fall, I was boarding a plane in Jackson, Wyoming, and managed to capture this photo on a very clear day.


Boarding a plane in Jackson, Wyoming

This is by far my favorite panorama to date.  I also would likely not have been able to capture it unless I used a phone.  I doubt the people boarding the plane would have had the patience to wait for me to unpack my camera, swap lenses, take a series of photos, and repack the camera.  But 20 seconds using a smart phone?  Yeah, I definitely had that much time.

Like any camera, a smartphone is a tool to capture images.  It is also a very light and simple tool which most people always have with them.  I enjoy the simplicity of taking the photos as a change of pace from setting up tripods and carrying around heavy cameras with multiple lenses.  Is the quality the same as my DSLR?  Nope, but that’s ok.


Cannon Beach, Oregon, at Sunset

For this post, I would like to talk about how I created a photo from Cannon Beach, Oregon, last year.

Before I left on this trip, I read about a new technique that can create interesting patterns in the sky when you stack a series of photos taken about 5-10 seconds apart with fast moving clouds.  (The technique is described on PetaPixel, among other places, and it tend to resurface as a ‘new’ idea every few years)

I wanted to try it.  But the clouds were not moving very quickly and the sun was setting very quickly.

So I thought, since I was on a beach, why not try the same concept, but with waves.  Either way, it was too late to move to a new spot, so my choices were to work with what I had or give up and ensure I walked away with nothing.

I set up my camera and took a series several series of photos.  One particular group of about 20 photos is what I would like to discuss in this post.  Of this group of 20 photos, this was the first:


First Photo!


Ok, not too bad.  There’s a lot I really like about this photo, especially in the color of the sky and the sea stacks in shadow.

I opened up the series of photos in Photoshop and stacked them on top of each other with Darken as the blend mode.  Darken, like Lighten, are really nice for working with this kind of scene.  In the earlier part of this post I linked to an article which talked about using ‘Lighten’ as your blend mode for clouds.  I have found that Lighten works best for lighter objects, and Darken works best for darker objects.  This is all subjective and mostly about what you like best or what just works best for you.

However, 20 photos was a bit too many.  So I turned layers on and off until only about 6 remained.  These 6 felt right, so I performed a merge visible on all but the bottom layer and set this new layer to ‘darken’.


Oops, I left a little too much of the transparency on. That just won’t work right.  (See the Sun for what I mean)


Ahh better.  I’ve masked out the area where the sun sits in the image.  This means that the bottom layer’s sun is now showing through.

What is left do do on this photo?  2 major things.  In Photoshop, I want to create a mask for the Oranges.  I feel like this color is just not where I want it to be.  So I’ll create a quick mask and adjust the Hue to make it a little more orange, and also underexpose the area a little to bring the brightness down.

Next, I’ll do the opposite for the waves.  I feel like they need to be made brighter, as well as have their colors saturated a bit more.

Finish it all up with a sharpening layer and we have:


After this image had been published, I noticed that the orange in the waves that I so liked was actually due to me forgetting to turn off the transparency of the layer.  Once that was turned down, we get:


Now we are nearly at our completed image.  I am really liking where this image is going.

There is still an issue with this image that I would like to correct.  Do you see the area between the sea and the sky?  There is a small color halo.  This is an easy fix.  We create a new Darken layer and using the paintbrush tool, we sample a nearby color and paint our way across the image.  The result is a subtle change, but, it eliminates the annoying halo.


And there it is, the finished image.  By stacking images, we can make a relatively calm ocean look like a much more active ocean.


Photographing Hummingbirds in the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, Costa Rica

Hello everyone.  Today, I’m going to write about photographing hummingbirds in Costa Rica.

About a year ago, I had the opportunity to take a work trip to Central America to help bring our San Jose team up to speed.  I extended my trip by a few days so I would have some time to see parts of the country.

One of the places I was able to visit was the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, which is about 2 hours outside of San Jose.  Among other things at this location is a Hummingbird Garden.  This only the second time I’ve had the opportunity to photograph hummingbirds.

Lots of Hummingbird Pictures

Screenshot of my Lightroom Catalog of the Hummingbird Gardens

These birds move quickly, much quicker than my autofocus was happy with.

Sometimes, I’d catch one just about right.

Hey, I got one!

Hyperactive bird drinking a sugar mix

Although the background is really uninteresting.

However, I would frequently end up with the birds out of focus.

Why yes, I was trying to get the feeder in focus and the bird out of focus

Sometimes, the birds would move out of frame giving me a fantastic photo of the feeder.

Invisible Hummingbirds

A picture of a feeder with invisible Hummingbirds

I even ended up with a silhouette.  I still like this photo, even if it is not my favorite from the day.

Eventually, my luck began to change and I started getting photos with birds that were both in focus and out of the shadows.

2 Hummingbirds at a Feeder

This one came out nice

This photo in particular was just sitting on my drive.  I didn’t realize I had it until I started to prepare photos for this post.

I also caught this colorful fellow.

Purple Hummingbird

Purple Hummingbird

Then, I managed to capture my favorite.

My favorite photo from the day

My favorite photo from the day

This one is really nice.  It has 3 birds, but the 2 on the left are looking at each other.  One of them is a bit out of focus, but that’s fine, you can tell what it is.  The one bird is in perfect focus.  This was a really lucky shot.

Now that I have my favorite, it is time to start to work on it.  I shoot my photos in RAW, which means capturing the photo is really only the beginning.  Generally, there’s at least 30 more minutes of work behind every photo that gets shared.

For this photo, I decided that the best part was on the left, and I decided to crop it to a vertical.

After cropping, it was time to get the colors balanced the way I wanted, turn up the saturation, and balance the brightness to my liking.

The result is this:

La Paz Hummingbirds

Final version of Hummingbirds Picture

And there it is, my finalized version of the photo.  I did turn up the saturation a little.  This was an item I debated for a while, but in the end, I’m happy with how it turned out.