Photographing Butterflies with the Sony α7R II

During the hot months of July and August, I usually struggle to find subjects in nature to photograph. This summer I turned my attention to something new for me – macro photography. Specifically, I concentrated on photographing butterflies and other flying insects literally in my own (or my neighbor’s) backyard. I’ve got two reasons for writing this article. First, to encourage dormant photographers to get out and explore their immediate environs, and perhaps as important, to demonstrate that the Sony α7R II camera is a very capable tool for photographing [some] wildlife and for butterfly photography in particular.
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FrameShop Script v0.9.7 for Photoshop CC 2015

FrameShop is a script for Adobe Photoshop designed to give the photographer/artist a variety of mat and frame styles for displaying digital images on the Web. The previous version of the FrameShop script (v0.9.5) was described in detail in an earlier post on this blog. This new version (v0.9.7) runs on Photoshop CC 2015 and CS6, and has several new features and improvements (as well as bug fixes):

  • User interface has been organized into tabs, minimizing screen real estate and organizing workflow
  • EXIF information can be formatted on multiple lines or a single line
  • Improvement to identification of lens information from EXIF metadata
  • Caption can be added beneath the Title
  • Frame edge bevel is now an option
  • Additional shooting information (e.g. “Hand-held”) can be added to the EXIF text
  • FrameShop script settings can be saved and retrieved

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Infrared Photography with the Sony α7R

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I’ve had a fascination with infrared (IR) photography for several years, but lurked from a safe distance. I finally took the plunge last year and had a Sony α7R camera body converted to IR. Like most of my adventures, this has been a learn-by-doing experiment, aided by online guides and tutorials. This article is a summary of my experience to date, with tips, workflow, and links to resources that might help prospective IR photographers. This is not a comprehensive tutorial, product review or user’s guide.
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2015 “Mill As Muse” Award Winner

One of my photographs won a second place award in the Historic Yates Mill County Park 2015 “Mill As Muse” Photography Contest. Yates Mill is a fully restored grist mill located in Raleigh, NC. The mill and park have been open to the public since May 2006, and are picturesque throughout the year. My winning photograph, entered in “Photography – Historic Yates Mill – Adult” category, was taken in July 2014, using a Sony a7R camera that had been converted to infrared. The contest culminated with a reception and photography exhibit on February 15. All of the winning entries are currently on display in the Visitors Center at the mill.



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Photographing the North Carolina Outer Banks with the Pentax 645Z

In early May, before the mosquitoes, heat, crowds and tropical storms descended on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I packed my gear and headed to the coast. My longtime friend and colleague from Illinois, Ron Basinger, joined me for the week. Ron’s an excellent photographer and has an outstanding gallery of lighthouse images on PBase. The North Carolina Outer Banks is one of my favorite travel destinations. It’s a photographer’s paradise, with wildlife, eye-popping sunrises and sunsets, lighthouses, beach scenes, and harbors to fill several days of shooting. The seafood ain’t bad either!

For this trip, instead of packing my Sony α7RII, I decided to go medium format and took a recently acquired Pentax 645Z. The 645Z is a digital medium format camera based on the Pentax 645D body and incorporating a 50MP Sony sensor. The camera body form factor is basically a “D”, chunky and relatively heavy. There are a few modern Pentax 645 lenses designed specifically for digital and for the higher resolution sensor. However, I’ve found that some of the legacy Pentax lenses perform quite well. My go-to lens for this trip was the Pentax FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 zoom, an autofocus zoom covering approximately the 35mm-70mm range in 35mm film terms. A good copy of that lens, when stopped down, produces sharp images corner to corner. And with a 50MP camera, there’s considerable latitude for cropping if the corners or edges are soft.
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Crazy Use of a Nikon D800E

Forget drones. Try driving a remote controlled 4×4 car equipped with a Nikon D800E into a pride of lions in Botswana.

The “Car L” project was hatched by Chris McLennan and engineered by Carl Hansen to capture unique images of lions with a Nikon D800E, fired remotely by Chris McLennan using a trigger system built into the remote control unit.

 

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Sony Ups the Ante with the α7 and α7R

Sony’s new α7 (24MP) and α7R (36MP) 35mm full-frame, mirrorless, interchangeable lens cameras are now available in the US. I just bought the α7R (no anti-aliasing filter) and can barely contain my excitement! Prior to this camera, the Leica M-system was the only game in town for a full-frame 35mm, interchangeable lens, mirrorless compact camera. Now I can use my Leica M lenses on the Sony (with an adapter), which at $2,300 is about one third the price of an M Type 240. The Sony has great high ISO performance and a large, bright EVF (Electronic Viewfinder) with focus peaking. The 36MP sensor with no anti-aliasing filter (similar to the Nikon D800E) is capable of delivering very sharp high-resolution images. And I deliberately said “capable of” because any 36MP (or above) camera requires impeccable shooting technique.

Make no mistake, these new mirrorless cameras by Sony are not Leicas. They don’t have the hand-made precision build quality of a Leica. They don’t have a family of native lenses, with only one Sony/Zeiss lens – a 35mm f/2.8 – available as of December 4. The Sony α7R 36MP sensor is prone to vignetting and color casts when used with lenses wider than 35mm, both of which can typically be fixed in post-processing. The shutter is loud. But even so, the Sony α7 and α7R cameras are quite capable and potentially revolutionary products.

In this video The Camera Store TV’s Chris Niccolls checks out the new Sony α7 and α7R. Enjoy.

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FrameShop Script v0.9.5 for Photoshop CS5 & CS6

Update (May 7, 2016): A newer version of the FrameShop script is now available for Photoshop CC 2015 and CS6. I highly recommend using the newer version if you are running either CC 2015 or CS6.

FrameShop is a script for Adobe Photoshop designed to give the photographer/artist a variety of mat and frame styles for displaying digital images on the Web. The initial version of the FrameShop script (v0.9) was described in detail in an earlier post on this blog. This new version (v0.9.5) runs on Photoshop CS5 and CS6, and has several new features:

  • Colors are selected using the Adobe Color Picker rather than color presets
  • Text positions are set by default to EXIF left, Title center and Signature right, all on the mat under the image
  • GPS latitude, longitude and elevation have been added to the selectable EXIF text items
  • Result can be saved as JPEG, TIFF, PSD, PNG or GIF
  • Result can be saved with the same ICC profile as the original file or another profile
  • Script runs on a duplicate of the original image and leaves the original image open after running

I have not tested the script with the Adobe Creative Cloud version of Photoshop (yet).
Update (September 9, 2013): The FrameShop script (v0.9.5) has been successfully tested with Adobe Photoshop CC.
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Happy Birthday Golden Gate Bridge!

Today marks the 75th birthday of the Golden Gate Bridge. Since it’s one of my favorite photo subjects, I thought I’d post a few of my favorite images of the bridge. Happy birthday!


 

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Nikon D800 Sets the Bar High

Today’s announcement of the Nikon D800 has upped the ante in the world of DSLR photography. With a 36.3 megapixel FX-format CMOS sensor and full HD 1080p video with stereo sound, the D800 is a game changer. And Nikon has set the bar even higher by announcing the D800E, which according to Nikon “incorporates an optical low pass filter (OLPF) without anti-aliasing properties to facilitate the sharpest images possible and is a great option for RAW shooters who are in a position to control light, distance and their subject to the degree where they can mitigate the risk of moiré and any false color.” 

Some of the D800′s specifications (see the Nikon website for a complete table of specs):

  • 36.3-megapixel FX-format CMOS sensor
  • 35.9mm x 24mm sensor size
  • 1/8000 to 30 sec. shutter speed
  • Up to 4 frames per second in FX-format
  • TTL exposure metering using 91,000-pixel RGB sensor
  • ISO 100-6400
  • 51-point dynamic-area AF
  • Built-in flash
  • Live View

Already, with very few who have even touched the new camera, there are reviews, articles and digests appearing on the Web, including:

Nikon USA now has the 20 pages Nikon D800 | D800E Technical Guide available for download. The guide is particularly useful in describing and illustrating techniques for getting sharp images with a 36-megapixal camera.

Stay tuned. This is exciting!

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