Monthly Archives: April 2015

Springtime at Peace Valley

150425_Male Cardinal by Karl G. Graf. Canon 7D MkII, EF100-400mm 3.5-5.6L IS @ 400mm, f/7.1, 1/1250 sec, ISO 1600

A couple of days ago, I took a couple of hours to visit Peace Valley Park to try to get a couple of nature shots.  As I arrived, three bus loads of kids arrived for a field trip.  There went my opportunity to get any wildlife shots with all the noise.  It was a great day for the kids though.  So I put my camera to my side and just enjoyed the walk in the woods.

When I got back to the nature center, I thought I would try the bird blind.  It provided a good spot to try out my new 100-400mm zoom and the low noise and fast shutter speed performance of my new Canon 7D MkII.  I was pleased with both.


150422_Yellow & White Daffodils by Karl G. Graf. Canon 7D MkII, EF 100mm f/2.8 IS Macro @ f/8.0, 1/640 sec, ISO 400

As I was coming in from my morning shoot of our garden, I saw these two blooms intermingled in a clump of white and yellow daffodils.  They reminded me of two close friends , one whispering in the other’s ear.

I cannot recall how many times that I have been getting ready to put my camera away for the shoot when that one last image pops up in front of me.  It seems to be one of my most alert times.  On multiple occasions, this last image is my select from the whole shoot.

Lesson Learned:  Always be ready for the image to come to you!

Japanese Maple Buds

150418_Japanese Maple Leaf Buds by Karl G. Graf. Canon 5D MkIII, EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro @ f/5.6, 1/400 sec, ISO 400

Out in our “Back 40” we have several bunches of bright yellow daffodils.  Ah ha … great background opportunity.  Now I just needed to find something to put in front.  A few emerging Japanese Maple leaf buds caught my eye.  So I put them together.  The challenge was to get an interesting composition while the branch was moving in the wind.  A relative open f-stop and a moderate shutter speed gave me the best balance.

Soft Pink

150415_Star Magnolia Macro Soft by Karl G. Graf. Canon 7D MkII, EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro @ 100mm, f/8, 1/250 sec, ISO 200

These subtle pink petals of our Star Magnolia caught my eye this afternoon.  The tree is in full bloom.  The blossoms are in a fresh crisp state which typically does not last very long.  Wind and wet weather usually turn the petal edges brown within a day or two after the bloom.  I caught it in the perfect state this year.

I softened the image slightly to give it a soft look.  It adds to the feeling that I had when I was shooting the image.


Purple Crocus

150410_PurpleCrocus_ME by Karl Graf. Canon 5D MkIII, EF 180mm Macro 3.5L – Multiple Exposure

These purple crocuses came out two days after the white ones.  They do so every year.  The white crocuses come out with a few blooms first, followed by the rest a couple days later.  The purple crocuses seem to come out all at once.  I was lucky with a couple of nice warm days when the blooms emerged.  The last couple of days have been cold and rainy.  The crispness of the flowers are now gone.

For Lexie:  The way this image was achieved is different from the white crocus image in my post a few days ago.  Large telephoto lenses have a narrow depth of field.  My target here was to get enough depth of field to capture detail in the nearest petal, the center, and the farthest petal of the nearest bloom.  It took an aperture setting of f/16 to achieve this.  However, using this aperture also pulled in detail from the background flowers.  I then took an image with the widest aperture (f/3.5) of my lens which only captured the center of the nearest flower in focus.  The edges of the bloom and all the background blooms were not in focus.  To make sure the images would line up when I processed them, I used a tripod.

Back on my computer, I combined the f/3.5 and f/16 images into a multiple exposure using Photoshop’s layers.  The background layer was the sharp f/16 image.  The second layer was the f/3.5 image.  I added a layer mask to the second layer and “painted” through the nearest bloom of the f/16 flower.  I then lightened the sharp bloom and darkened the edges to get the final image.

The following is the f/16 SOC image as reference:

150410_PurpleCrocus_SOC by Karl Graf.

Siberian Iris – “In Your Face”

150409_SiberianIris_Macro by Karl Graf. Canon 5DMkIII, EF180mm Macro f/3.5L @ 180mm, f/32, 0.5 sec, ISO 200

These small 3/4 inch blooms are great targets for Macro photography.  In recent years I have not spent much time doing macros.  Macro’s in our garden usually require getting down on my hands and knees or on my stomach to get face to face with the object of interest.  I am not as flexible as I use to be and am reluctant to get down in that position.  But these jewels just begged me to do it … so I did.

For Lexie:  When I take an image, I always try to specify what my subject is.  My next step is to enhance the subject as much is possible.  Then I try to reduce any clutter that may distract from the subject.

For this image my subject was the “mouth” of the single blossom, not any surrounding petals.  To enhance the image I used a 180 mm telephoto macro lens focusing on the interior mouth of the bloom.  I used a very small aperture to make sure I got as much of the bloom in focus as I could.  In addition, I tilted the camera to get a more interesting perspective of the blossom.

The negative ramification of the small aperture was that I also picked up details surrounding the single bloom as clutter.  To eliminate the surrounding clutter, I darkened and desaturated the background in post processing.  In addition I added a blur to the mid-ground purple petals.

For reference, below is the SOC version of the image.

150409_SiberianIris_Macro_SOC by Karl Graf.

One More Day!

150408_One More Day! by Karl Graf. Canon 5D MkIII, EF100mm f/2.8 Macro @ 100mm, f/4.5, 1/500 sec, ISO 800

One more day and this star magnolia bud will pop out to a full bloom.  I hope the weather will cooperate.  We are expecting moderate to heavy rain for the next few days.  It always seems to happen this way when these beautiful flowers bloom.  In one day, the rain will turn them into droopy brown edged flowers.  Last year, I did not even shoot the blooms because of the rain.

For Lexie:  I used a macro lens to get this close up.  The bud is about 3/4 inch long.  I needed to get close to fill the camera image frame.  I used a shallow depth of field to blur out the background evergreen bushes.  Note that the bud casing in front of the blossom is out of focus. This is the trade-off I was managing.  Also note that the shutter speed was high to freeze the bud in the wind.  In post processing, I used Photoshop and NIK Color Efex Pro plugin.  I used “tonal contrast” to pull out details in the bud and “darken/lighten center” to darken the edges and bring additional focus to the bud.

Spring Welcomes the “Huskies”

150407_Purple&Gold_Crocus by Karl Graf. Canon 5D MkIII, EF24-70 f/2.8L @ 58mm, f/11, 1/320 sec, ISO 800

These purple and gold (yellow) crocuses welcome the UW Huskies to Spring.  Purple and Gold are like Red to me.  When you see either … SHOOT!  These crocuses are the prelude of what more is to come soon.

For Lexie:  The weather conditions made taking this photo difficult.  The wind was blowing pretty hard, so the blooms were moving rapidly.  The sun was coming in and out of the clouds, so the exposure was also changing rapidly.  Waiting for the right combination of the sun going behind the clouds and the wind easing a little required a lot of patience.  It took me about 20 minutes to get the right combination.  In processing the image, I took a short cut and used one of NIK Color Efex Pro plugin presets to get the feeling that I was looking for.  Below is the original image straight out of the camera (SOC).  Which one do you like best?

150407_Purple&Gold_Crocus_SOC by Karl Graf.

Easter Emergence

150406_First Siberian Iris Blooms by Karl Graf. Canon 5D MkIII, EF24-70mm f2.8L @ 52mm, f/8, 1/320 sec, ISO 800

These Siberian Iris blooms were nowhere to be seen the day before Easter.  I walked out in our garden on Easter afternoon and there they were!  It was an Easter gift.  These small blooms are one of my dear wife’s favorites.

For Lexie:  There was nothing really special in this RAW image.  There was a lot of clutter around the individual blooms.   I could not do much except to create a tight image to minimize the clutter.  See the following original image straight from the camera.

150406_First Siberian Iris Blooms2 by Karl Graf. However, I knew that I could do a little processing to improve the image.  This is what I did.  1) Added tonal contrast to pop out the blooms, 2) decreased the structure, brightness, and saturation around the blooms, 3) added a vignette blur around the blooms, 4) cloned out the two purple flowers at the top right of the image, and 5) did a little additional cropping.