Archives For photos by jeff

Rails

Looking through the monorail tracks to the Westin Hotel, downtown Seattle. (Click for larger view.)

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Foggy Morning Pajamas

A foggy morning provided a few minutes of good photography as my daughter and friends (here, her friend Ainsley) looked out our hotel room window at Great Wolf Lodge. Taking most pictures of these girls needs to be surreptitious these days, because they want to mug for the camera instead of pose. (Click the photo to view it larger.)

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Pudding Creek Trestle at Sunset

I love running across photos in my library that I’d forgotten about. I need to allocate more time to going through back albums. (Click the photo for a better, larger view.)

The Pudding Creek Trestle in Fort Bragg, California once carried lumber by train, and has since been refurbished as a walkway.

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Group test2

Here’s something a long time coming. I’m thrilled to announce that I have a new guide at The Wirecutter: The Best 360-Degree Camera.

This is by far one of the most interesting projects I’ve done. 360-degree cameras capture the entire sphere around the photographer, in stills or video, which is great for getting a better sense of a scene beyond what a typical photo frame offers. But this photography also has many challenges, such as where you the photographer appears—many of us are happy to hide behind the camera, but in this case there is no “behind” the camera.

It was also a challenge to set parameters, because the cameras we chose for final testing take different approaches to the task of capturing a 360-degree scene. They’re not like most cameras where a lot of the features are the same from model to model and you look to see which one has better resolution or low-light capabilities. For example, the Ricoh Theta S, Nikon KeyMission 360, and Samsung Gear 360 each use two extreme–wide-angle lenses to capture two images, which are then stitched together in the camera as one image. However, the 360fly 4K designers opted to use just one lens to avoid the stitching altogether, which unfortunately means you end up with dead area in the image where the lens can’t see.

When viewed in the cameras’ apps or in a few locations online such as Facebook, Flickr, or YouTube, you can explore the entire scene by dragging the image. If you’re on a mobile device, some sites like Facebook enable you to turn your body and move the device to view everything. It’s a very cool effect! (The image below is hosted at Flickr and should be interactive. You can also see a few more at this Flickr album.)

theta_vancouver_bw_etool

In the end, it wasn’t just image resolution or form factor that made one rise above the others, but a combination of hardware, software, and experience to capture the images, and then the process of doing something with the files (which has its own complexities). I’ll let you read the guide to see which one was the winner. I was surprised, and I was the one doing the research!

360-degree photography is really in its early days, and I think this category will get even more interesting in the near future as customers decide what to do with the cameras and manufacturers cater to those whims. In the meantime, the shots you get can really stand apart from traditional cameras in many ways.

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Low light iphone 7

Following up my appearance in Adobe Create with tips for holiday low-light shooting, I’m happy to share… another tip for low-light shooting! In a total coincidence, Jackie Dove contacted me the other day wondering if I had any advice for shooting with the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. You can read my tip in this article for Tom’s Guide: 6 Pro Tips for Taking Better Pictures With Your iPhone 7 Plus.

I opted to buy the iPhone 7 instead of the Plus, even though the Plus has a cool dual-camera system and Portrait Mode, because I find its size to be just too much for everyday use. But I’m loving my 7 so far.

Ellie holiday downtown

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Stuffie Stickers Hero

Kids love stickers. When my daughter was a toddler, we gave her pages and pages of stickers to play with—many of which ended up on the legs of an old table.

You can buy stickers of almost anything, from current movies and books to abstract shapes. But that plethora of options is also somewhat numbing—what’s special about another book of unicorns when you already have four?

So I decided to do something different one Christmas and made stickers of her favorite stuffed animals. It was easy, fun, and a great surprise when she realized that the animals on those stickers looked wonderfully familiar.

To make it happen, I took photos of the stuffies, built a sticker book at Moo.com, and placed the order. Each book has a minimum of 90 stickers, so you could make 90 unique stickers if you want—I uploaded a dozen. The books arrived in time to put them into my daughter’s stocking for Christmas morning.

Photography

You can take the photos using any camera, even a phone camera. I chose to set them up against a black background to make them stand out more. The Moo stickers are small, measuring just under an inch square (0.86 inch), and I wanted them to be immediately recognizable.

The lighting was nothing too complicated. I had previously made a homemade macro photo studio with lights on either side for another project. I used paper as the backdrop. As you can see here, I tried doing a white backdrop at first, but found that black ended up looking better for the final result. But of course you don’t need to go to those lengths. Mostly you want the stuffed animal to stand out clearly.

Lightbox

Squirrel

Edit and Prep

After importing the photos into Lightroom, I picked my favorites and applied any touch-ups that were needed. Mostly that was removing dust from the background using the Spot Removal tool, or fixing areas where the edges of the paper were visible (using Spot Removal or the Clone tool).

Since each sticker is a square, you could crop the shots in Lightroom beforehand, but Moo.com’s online tool to build the book is robust enough that I didn’t bother.

Stuffies lightroom grid

Upload and order

Next, I created a new StickerBook order at Moo.com, uploading the images for each sticker. The tool divides the number of total stickers (90) by the number of images you upload. In my case, I uploaded 12 photos, resulting in 7 stickers of each stuffie in the book. (Actually, six of the stuffies got 8 stickers, since 90 divided by 12 is 7.5—there’s one more page of the first six designs than the other page.)

Moo com sticker build

The books cost $9.99, plus shipping. That’s certainly more expensive than the stickers you can get at any toy store, but none of those are stickers of your child’s own toys. When my daughter saw that all of her fuzzy friends were in the stickers, she looked amazed. And that, in turn, was a gift to me.

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Trinidad State Beach HDR

Last night, the Google Photos Assistant popped up this HDR made from bracketed shots from last year. Google Photos scans through the photos you’ve uploaded and looks for brackets with varying exposures (among other things) and automatically creates HDRs out of them. I don’t know why it waited a year and a half to process these—it’s all done on Google’s massive distributed network of servers, so maybe it just goes back and pokes through libraries looking for something to do when there are some spare cycles.

This version is cropped from the original, but otherwise… it’s not bad! It’s a bit noisy since the source images are moderate-resolution JPEGs (I don’t pay for additional Google Photos storage, so all the photos are uploaded and compressed automatically), but it’s still a nice shot.

Google Photos continues to impress, and it’s what I recommend as an online photo service in my book Take Control of Your Digital Photos on a Mac.

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Woods

No surprise, I’m depressed by the election result and think it portends terrible things for our country. There’s work to be done, art to be made, and a million tiny positive things we can do that will add up to repel darkness and hatred.

“But the thing that got me through that moment, and any other time that I’ve felt stuck, is to remind myself that it’s about the work. … [I]f you can keep it about the work, you’ll always have a path. There’s always something to be done.”

—Barack Obama

Puget Sound Sunset

I live in an awfully beautiful place. On the way to my daughter’s piano practice the other day, the light was amazing. I dropped her and my wife off, then headed to Sunset Hill Park, a little grassy overlook that’s aptly named.

I also took this opportunity to set up a 360-degree camera (the 360fly 4K) and capture a short timelapse of the sunset. The sun dropped below the clouds pretty quickly, but the clip still turned out well (especially the little girl to the right flopping around while her mom tried to get a photo). The video below should show up in a 360 viewer: if you’re on a mobile device, turn yourself around to see other angles. You may need to view it in the YouTube app. On a computer, you may need to use a browser such as Chrome.

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Valley of Light

My wife and I spent the weekend near Leavenworth, Washington at a cozy cabin with this as the view. Although I didn’t know if there would be much of a sunset the first night, the sun shone horizontally down a nearby valley for a wonderful show. Having a glass of wine at hand didn’t hurt, either. (Click to view the image larger.)

About the photo: I merged three exposures using Lightroom’s built-in HDR tool and then edited it further in Lightroom.

If you like the work I do, please consider signing up for my low-volume newsletter that I use to announce new projects, items, and giveaways that I think my readers would be interested in.