Weekend Update

Been a crazy, crazy week, both at work and at home. There hasn’t been much time to paddle, take photos, or chase down fire towers or old schools. Here’s a brief rundown… Work Our computer shipments have started to arrive. We’ve ordered far less than we usually do, but there were still pains. Our normally … Continue reading Weekend Update

Image-Stacking in Charleston


It’s been a very long, hard two weeks. Right after the funeral on Monday I drove straight down to Charleston for PowerSchool University – an intense training session on our new student database system. I learned some neat things I’m going to try when I get back to the office, but it was almost information overload. I did manage to sneak out for a couple of hours one evening to do some photography, and was keen to try out the new image-stacking techniques, as well as the content-aware fill tool in Photoshop CS5.

My friend Ken had given me the idea to use image stacking with crowd scenes. The idea was that there would be a blur of activity around a few static individuals. Since I was staying in the heart of Charleston’s tourist area, I figured I’d have ample opportunity to give this a try. Turns out it was a nice idea, but the process in Photoshop probably wasn’t the best choice of tools.

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Focus-Stacked Macros

Lilly Focus Stacking

Last summer when we were in Maine one of the people staying at the B&B with us was also a photographer. Over breakfast one morning he told me about image focus stacking. The technique is similar to HDR photography, but instead of exposure, different images with various focus and depth of field are combined. Several shots are taken at various focal lengths, and the images are “stacked”, taking the best focused areas from each image to create a very sharp final image.

When I got home from Maine I downloaded Keith’s Image Stacker . Keith Wiley does astrophotography, and wrote the software to sharpen some of his images. I know some people who have gotten excellent results from his program, but I just couldn’t seem to get the hang of it. I lost interest. Last week I upgraded to Photoshop CS5, which has built-in image stacking, and my interest was renewed.

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Creating Effective Google Earth Tours

Manhattan GE 3D

The folks over at the Google Earth Design blog have been running a series on creating Google Earth tours.  They have had some excellent suggestions for creating effective tours. (Part 1, Part 2).  It was enough to get me to try creating a tour or two.

For some reason I haven’t done much with GE Tours.  To me they seem passive in a constructivist classroom.  If I’m doing a presentation, I prefer to use a series of placemarks that I access as needed, rather than a fixed tour.  In fact, the GE Design Blog states the following:

If changes of scale and location are not important your narrative it is quicker and just as effective to use presentation software such as PowerPoint.

However, their blog posts inspired me to at least give it a shot.  I won’t repeat all of their suggestions, but here are a few things I learned…

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A Portrait of the Parents

Mom and Dad on Peak Bridge

This past week Dad had been in the hospital to have his pacemaker replaced. Full of new energy, he wanted to get out and about when I came down for a visit on Friday. So, we loaded up the car with cameras and road out into the countryside around the town of Prosperity.

Our drive took us past places I had visited recently, so I narrated. I gave both Mom and Dad a point-n-shoot camera so they could take a few snaps along the way, too. We stopped at the new Palmetto Trail Bridge over the Broad River near Peak, drove past the Old Brick Church near Jenkinsville, drove through the Anderson Quarry area where they mine the Winnesboro Blue granite, then along the shores of Lake Monticello up to the little community of Monticello. It was a good ride.

While at the Peak Bridge the parents posed for the portrait that you see at the top of this post. As I was processing the image, I thought it might be time for a quick Photoshop tutorial on adjusting exposure within a single shot.
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Of BOOBs and Curves

Swamp Rabbit Tilt-Shift OOB

Nope, not what you’re thinking. If you came here looking for something else, I’m afraid you will be disappointed. This will be a dull-by-comparison tutorial on Photoshop. In this case BOOB stands for Bridge Out Of Bounds, and Bezier curves are the cool masking technique I’ve finally mastered to make intricate OOB (Out Of Bounds) images possible.

In an OOB, the image appears to break through a frame in the image. Imagine you have a framed photo hanging and part of that photo escaped onto the wall – that’s the effect that OOBs try to achieve. I’ve written about them before here, and there is a great Flickr discussion group dedicated to OOBs. Here is the first one that I ever attempted, where my kayak appears to leap out of the photo.

Tom Kayak OOB

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Getting More from Your Auto GPS

I figured it was time for a round-up.  I’ve been talking a lot about doing various things with a GPS, but haven’t gone into much detail.  Chances are that you got a GPS for your car because you feel like you’re directionally challenged, or you just the convenience of plugging in an address and getting directions.  That’s about the extent of what most people do, but there is so much more.

Thought it might be time to talk about automobile GPSs in general, and how they can really benefit a serious rambler like myself.  The one I use is a Garmin Nuvi 205, but most of what I’ll cover here should work with just about any unit.  If you’re into geocaching, you’ll already be familiar with most of these concepts. Continue reading “Getting More from Your Auto GPS”

Super Simple Time Lapse

When we were in the Bahamas I tried my hand at some time-lapse video using my little Nikon S50 camera in movie mode. The results were pretty good, but I found myself battling the twin hurdles of battery life and patience (as well as lack of a tripod.) The result was a shorter-than-desired video clip that went by far too quickly.

Then a couple of weeks ago I read a good blog post on the Digital Urban blog with simple instructions on doing time-lapse photography with a webcam. While Digital Urban’s instructions look great, and I want to try those out, it occurred to me that there might be an even easier way to accomplish this – use someone else’s webcam! Here’s one that I created very quickly using some simple software and the webcam for Table Rock State Park…

All you need for this project is a computer (duh) that no one will need to use for a few hours, a good steady Internet connection, a website with an embedded webcam image, and the BSR Screen Recorder. Other screen recorder programs will probably work, but I like the BSR program because it’s very easy to set the record rate, and that is the lynch pin in this method. Continue reading “Super Simple Time Lapse”