Syncing Multiple Cameras using your Computer

This is part one of a three part series. In part one I will show you how to sync your cameras to your PC or Mac system clock. Part two will show you how to adjust the capture time of images shot in another timezone. In part three, I will show you how to how to sync the GPS metadata with your cellphone photos.

When complete, you will have georeferenced photos. Ready for Lightroom’s Map feature.

Why sync your camera’s time?

For one, its easer to identify photos when they have the correct time. If you have multiple cameras, then it will be convent to see all the photos you took in one location all grouped together.

Why should I sync my camera using my computer? Its easier, and if you are using a time-server then the time on your cell-home will also be the same.

How ofter should I sync my cameras? Well most camera don’t automaticlaly adjust for daylight savings time. So at a minimum at least twice a year—during daylight adjustments. Most camera’s clocks are not all that accurate and will tend to drift. I would recommend once a month. Well at least just before a big event, or photo-shoot. 

Well lets get started!

Software.

First off you will need to download and install the software to sync your camera. This is available on your camera’s web site.

For Nikon users you will need to download Nikon Transfer; it’s free from Nikon.

For Canon users you will need to download EOS Utility; it’s also free from Cannon.

Ensure your computer clock is using a time server.

This will ensure that your system time is correct. For PC double click your system clock, then click the Internet Time tab. From there you will be able to set your NTP (Network Time Protocol) server and timezone.

For PC double click your system clock, then click the Internet Time tab. From there you will be able to set your NTP (Network Time Protocol) server and timezone.

For Mac double click your system clock, then select “Open Date & Time Preferences.” Click the padlock at the bottom to unlock the settings. Then click the “Date & Time” tab. Ensure that the “Set date and time automatically” is checked 9qnmlmk. Then select a time server.  Click the padlock to lock again.

Connect your camera using a USB cable to your computer and sync.

Using the software you previously downloaded.

For Nikon users, launch “Nikon Transfer.”  Select the Preferences tab. Ensure that the “Synchronize camera datea adn time to comuter when camera is connected (supported cameras only)” is checked. Then click the Synchronize button.

For Cannon users, launch the “EOS Utility.” Then select “Camera Settings/Remote Shooting.” Your specific camera dialog will popup. Select the setup icon; third from the left, below shooting details. A “Date/Time/Zone Settings” dialog will pop. From there click the “From PC” button.

Now all your camera should be synced to the current time.

Padlock Focus Technique

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While I was in Valley of the Gods Utah, the forecast was for clear sky overnight, so I thought I would give night photography a try. So thinking I would need to have an idea as to where infinity was, I took my camera out during the day focused on a distant cliff and with a skinny sliver of electrical tape I marked where the infinity loop crossed on my lens. I was now ready for night photography.

That night I set up my camera, pointed towards the Milky Way and, with my 14-24mm set to manual focus and the infinity centered on my mark, I set my aperture to f/2.8, ISO to 6400 and a shutter speed of about 20 seconds, and took a shot.  To my surprise when I looked at my image in live-view, it was blurry.

Back at home, I did some research, and found that there were three established ways to focus a camera for night star photography. 1. Set up your camera during daylight and focus then, and leave the camera set-up until you are ready to shoot. 2. Make a mark on the lens over the infinity mark and align to that before shooting. 3. Use live-view and focus on the stars.

Number one—focusing during daylight—seemed unrealistic as it required you to hang around several hours waiting for the night sky, and since the camera is mounted on a tripod and pre-focused, you can’t even use the camera.

Number two—making a mark over infinity—I had already tried without too much success. I suspect it has something to do with parallax (the position of an object appears to differ when viewed from different positions) there was definite space between my mark and the focus scale under the glass window. I suppose I could make this work as long as the focus alignment was done from the same position every-time, before composing for the shot.

Number three—using live view—looked promising, as I do this all the time during daylight landscape photography. In this scenario, you zoom in on a star and focus until the star appears as a point. 

On my next trip to Zion, I decided to give night star photography another try. I set up my camera and zoomed into to find a star. But my camera was too dark, so I decided to decrease the shutter speed  until I started to see stars and then try to zoom into one of them. The problem is that as I decreased the shutter speed, I increased the noise. As I started to see the stars, the noise made it difficult to determine what was noise and what was a star. I decided that stars where white and the noise has some color. This would actually work, but time-consuming trying to distinguish between sensor noise and star. 

I think I found a better way to focus but first we need to understand how an Nikkor AF-S lens works.

If you have ever played with a Nikkor AF-S lens, you may have noticed that the focus ring does not stop when you hit either end of the focusing range. What happens is the gear between the focus ring and the lens decouples and focusing stops as you continue turning the focus ring in the same direction. Stop, and reverse the direction of the focus ring, and the gears immediately engage and focus resumes until you hit the other end of the focus range. The moment you change direction of rotation (no meter where you are) focus will resume. What we need to do is establish a common stopping point to change directions to arrive at the infinity focus point.

Knowing this I was able to develop what I am calling the “Padlock Focus Technique” like a padlock which you have to rotate your combination dial several time before stoping at the first number (the stop-mark) then reverse direction to arrive at the next number in the combination (the focus-mark). Albeit this is only a two digit combination, so you can forgo the “pass the first number” bit.2016-03-31-22.34.16-Stack

Things you will need:

  • Camera with Live View
  • AF-S Lens
  • Tripod
  • Colored Electrical Tape
  • Exacto Knife
  • Straight Edge
  • Cutting Surface
  • Clear Skies
  • Moon During Daylight Hours

You will be placing three marks (color electrical tape) on your lens one inside the groove of the focus-ring, and two short marks (the stop-mark and the focus-mark) along the out-slide edge of the focus-ring which you will be aligning the focus-ring to. The focus-mark and the stop-mark will be very close together—within a quarter of an inch of each other.

Step 1: Determine a good spot on the lens to place the padlock focus stop-mark. Although the first stop spot is arbitrary, it is a good idea to choose a place where you can see the mark, and align with it, in both the horizontal and vertical camera orientations.

Step 2: Cut 3 skinny slivers of the electrical tape. The thickness should be just small enough to sit inside the focus ring grooves. Two short ones (focus-mark and the stop-mark) that will be placed just out-side the focus ring, and a longer one one that will be recessed into one of the grooves on the focus ring.

Step 3: Place the long strip inside one of the groves on the focus-ring, it does not matter which one any-one will do. Trim to tape to the height of the focus ring, making it easy to identify, and easy to align with the outer marks.

Step 4: Place the stop-mark, where you decided in step one along the out-slide of the focus ring and in a position where it will be easy to align to the one on the focus ring.

Step 5: Place camera on a tripod, and point to moon. If using a zoom set it to the smallest focal-length, set f-stop to widest setting (the smallest number 1.4, 2.8).

Step 6: If your camera is configured to focus when you press the shutter button (not using back-button focus) turn camera to manual focus.

Step 7: Turn on live-view and zoom into the moon as much as posable.

Step 8: Turn focus ring one complete revolution clock-wise and then on the second revolution align with the with the stop-mark.

Step 9: Slowly turn the focus ring in a counter-clockwise direction to focus on the moon. You can  fine-tune the focus by moving in both clockwise and counter-clockwise directions as long as you don’t cross the stop-mark.

Step 10: Once focused, place the focus-mark on the lens, aligning with the focus ring mark.

Step 11: Defocus, and follow the “Using the Padlock Focus Method” below to test, and familiarize yourself with the method.

You’re done!

Using the Padlock Focus method, with your newly marked lens:2016-03-31-22.34.16-Stack

  • Set up you camera and align to the night sky and foreground you intend to photograph.
  • Set your aperture to its smallest focal length and widest aperture.
  • If your not using back-button focus, set your focus to manual.
  • Rotate the focus ring in a clock-wise direction one complete revolution,
  • On your second pass align to the stop-mark (passing the focus-mark).
  • Slowly rotate counter-clockwise to align with the focus-mark.

You are now set to infinity.

Texas State House – B&W

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This was my third visit to the Texas state capitol. After spending a couple of hours touring the building and walking the grounds, I was scouting for compositions I wanted to return and shoot the next morning. It was this shot using the Capitol’s Extension Open-Air Rotunda to merge the architecture of the original 1880 building with the 1993 underground extension that really intrigued me. I love the way the symmetry of the rotunda balances with the capitol building, and how the new and old blend together seamlessly. I was hoping that the early-morning light would bathe the building with beautiful morning colors.

But when the alarm rang the next morning, it was raining. I don’t know why I didn’t give up—perhaps that old saying was haunting me; bad weather makes for good photography. I did manage to take a shot. I actually took a single set of 9 bracketed exposures from this location. The single color shot from this location was uninteresting.  Processing all 9 shots with Photomatix looked quite good, although it did have an HDR grunge look. What I particularly liked was how the sky and building balanced adding mystery to this  ominous feeling image. In the end, the color had to go as I felt it was more of a distraction.

I used Photomatix Pro to process the 9 exposures, Photoshop to clean-up the image of dust spots, and remove the police car that was parked on the left side of the Rotunda. Finally I used Nik’s Sliver Effect to convert to black & white.

Camera: Nikon D3s
Lens: Nikon 14-24 f/2.8 @ 14mm
Exposure: Manual ISO 100; 1 sec @ f/11 (initial exposure)
Bracketed exposure: 9 shots; 1/3 stop increments.
Shooting Mode: Continuous High Speed on a Tripod.

I See You

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McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet Multirole Carrier-based Strike Fighter.

At first glance, one would think that I took this image being escorted by military officials in an environment where the average photographer would never get access. Yes it was taken on an Air Force Base, and yes I did have a competitive advantage. Most people would never go to an Air Show when it is cold, raining and overcast. It’s miserable, you’re getting wet and no one is flying!

ISeeYouROrigThat’s my competitive advantage! Since it was cold the attendance was down, giving better access to to the display aircraft without the crowds. Since it was overcast people weren’t trying to use the wings as sun-shields, making it easier to get more of the aircraft into the frame. Since it was raining, there was this sheen that enhanced aircraft.

I’d like to say that when I saw this carrier based McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet aircraft that I was drawn by its unique geometric shapes, and spent several hours waiting for others step out of the frame and took hundreds of photos before settling on this particular one. But no, I was actually on my way to get in line for a tour of the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy and stopped to grab a snap shot. I actually only took one photo at this perspective, 3 photos total; the other two were of the nose and the intake part of the jet. What can I say, “it was raining,” and the line for the C-5 was forming underneath the wing of its enormous aircraft.

What actually drew me to this particular perspective was the symmetry of the fighter. The circles and inner circles of the engines looked like eyes, and the arresting hook looked kinda-like a nose.

In post processing: the color in the photo was a distraction, so I enhanced the photo in Lightroom to pull as much contrast as I dared, I then used Nik (now Google or should I say Alphabet) Silver Effects to convert to black & white. With all that; the majority of the editing was done in Photoshop to remove the feet of the spectators as well as all the tie-down flags and the oil leak catch bucket. The editing was not all that bad because of the symmetry of the aircraft I was able to select portions of the photo from one side, flip and use it to recover what was hidden by the obstruction I was trying to remove.

The result is a rarely photographed perspective of the back-end of this magnificent aircraft that kinda looks like the face of an Owl.

Location: Barns Air National Guard – 104th Fighter Wing, Massachusetts
Camera: Nikon D2x
Lens: Nikkor 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 @ 30mm
Exposure: ISO 100; f/4 @ 1/250 sec.
Tripod: none

Trinity River Flood – Dallas Skyline

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Before attempting to photograph the Dallas skyline, I did my homework, looked at other’s photos and then went to Google Earth to determine the best vantage point.

I arrived in Dallas at the perfect time, I found a place to park, although not exactly the best part of town!  I headed down to the Trinity River bank to set up. But where was the Trinity? It was more of a stream then a river. I must have walked a good 45 minutes looking for a spot that included a good reflection of the city — I did not find one. I finally settled on a spot near the road. I did not get a good shot that day.

I surmised that the photos I found, on the web, were taken after a hard rain where the photographer found a large puddle. I even thought that the water and reflections were fabricated in Photoshop. I attempted to use a photo from nearby Lake Grapevine to provide  the reflection for the buildings.  The result just looked fake.

What I didn’t realize is how the river and levi systems in Texas work, and that Dallas was in a drought. I was thinking that the likelihood of getting a good skyline photo was pretty much a lost cause.

This year spring rain flooded the area to the point of highways being shut down and I had to return to capture this elusive photo of the Dallas skyline. What I thought was parks and hiking / biking trails had filled with water.

For this particular photo I used my 70-200mm lens and took 6 shots in the portraits orientation to create this panorama. The final print has amazing detail — you can even see if people are in the windows. 

What I learned from this was not to give up on a photo, but to understand the environment and conditions that are needed to make a beautiful scene.  Be ready to return when those conditions are presented to you.

Time: June 19, 2015 @ 9:00pm
Camera: Nikon D810
Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 98mm
Exposures: 6 Panels at ISO 64; f/8 @ 1.3 sec.

 

Panoramic from an Epson 3880

The Epson 3880 is a great printer, but it does not take roll paper, and even if you could rig up a contraption to feed the printer from a roll, when the print is finished, the printer driver would  eject all of the paper remaining on the roll.

This means that you’re limited to cut paper. Epson’s specifications state, that the maximum print size for the 3880 is 17×22″.

Lets say you wanted to print your standard DSLR image the biggest possible, then your print would be 15×22”.  When maximizing your print height to 17”, your image is 17×25”. That’s ” too long.

I discovered a way to print up to 17×37” on the 3880, and here is how.

STEP 1 Acquire Paper

There are high quality paper manufactures that sell cut 17×25” paper, but if you’re in love with Epson paper, or want to print panoramas, the you’re going to have to cut your own.

Simply rolling out your paper on a clean surface is not a good idea. The print side of the paper is on the outside, so no matter how clean your surface is, the weight of the paper while rolling causes scratches. Also the paper will pick up any dust which the printer would print over. When the dust falls off, you’re left with prints with small white dots or what looks like small white scratches.   

To minimize this, I made this simple paper feeder from a plank of wood 24×11″. The key is it has to be at least 4” bigger then the width of the paper. You will also need a 3/4” dowel, two 6” eye bolts, 4 bolts that fit the eye bolt, and 4 washers.

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Roll out your paper and cut it slightly larger then you need. You will need to cut the end that feeds into the printer first again to ensure it is square. This is probably the most critical step in the whole process. If the paper is not square, then as the paper is pulled through the printer it will bunch up on the left or right side (depending on the angle of the cut) and jam.

I used a Dahle 18” rolling paper cutter: http://www.amazon.com/Dahle-Personal-Rolling-Trimmers-length/dp/B000KNBL9Q/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1431912462&sr=8-3&keywords=paper+cutter

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I also recommend you cut at least 4” more paper then you need, as the curled ends tend to grab any residue ink as it enters and exits the printer. This is especially critical if you want a white margin around your print for your signature. Remember your printer will not print any larger than 17×37.5”, but you can cut your paper slightly bigger.

In my print, I wanted a 1” margin all around the image. So I rolled out 40” of paper.

I set a 1-1/2” on the top (the extra half inch was so I could cut off any ink that might be caught on the leading end). My print went to the very end of the printing area, with no margin. However since I had an extra 3” of paper cut, I got my 1” margin and an extra two inches to catch any ink on the bottom (exit end).

STEP 2: Configuring Custom Paper

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1 From Lightroom, in the “Print” module, select “Page Setup”

2 From “Paper Size” select “Manage Custom Sizes…”

3 Click the “+” bottom left (“Untitled” will appear in the list of paper sizes), Give it a name, I used “Cut 17 x 25 in”. Under Non-Printable Area: Select your printer, and I used “.12 in” for margins top, left, right, and bottom. Note, if you select a height larger then 37.4, then when you select your Epson 3880, the margin will be adjusted to 37.4”

4 Select OK

STEP 3: Lightroom Settings

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In Lightroom, I set the a 1” left & Right margins, with a top margin of 1.5, and I didn’t bother setting the bottom margin. I also set Lightroom—-as normal—-for the standard printing properties, profile, and paper handling.

STEP 4: Loading Paper

Now this is the hard part, loading the paper so that it feeds correctly. Since I am using normal loading, I have my printer against a wall, to help support the paper. then after I hit “Print” I put the paper into the top of the printer, and while holding, making sure that the paper was making positive contact with the printer feeder, and then waited for the printer to pull the paper into position. I then continued to hold the paper until the paper was 1/3 the way through the printing then the bottom of the print was at the top of the fully extended print guide.

 

Towers of the Virgin

Hello world!

PhotoSlate – the movie slate app for digital still photographers.

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Have you ever found yourself looking at your photograph archive and wondering “Where did I take that photo?” or looking at a photograph and trying to plan the best time to go back to that location?

Perhaps you took a single shot of a landscape, and then decided you should also take a couple of sets of bracketed exposures, and you even shot a set of images for focus stacking. You move your composition slightly and repeat. Back in the digital darkroom, you’re trying to figure out which images belong together.

In the past I used a cue-card system to solve these issues. It’s really quite simple; I would carry a stack of index cards, and write down pertinent information about the photograph I was about to take. I would first photograph the cue-card then photograph the subject—I even had an END cue-card to mark the end of a sequence. The movie industry has been doing this for quite some time to keep track of their takes using what is commonly referred to as a Movie Slate or Clapper Board.  This syncs sound and provides other pertinent information that is needed in post-production. 

For the past few years I have been searching for the “movie slate” app for digital still photographers. An app that would provide location information GPS, Compass Heading, Location Name, Address, as well as the type or sequence and the number of images that make-up the sequence. 

I have yet to find one…

So, I created my own.

AlwaysPhotographing is proud to announce PhotoSlate. A pre-production in-field application to capture the photographic meta-data that your camera doesn’t.

Start up PhotoSlate and in a few seconds, PhotoSlate will get your GPS location, heading, and using reverse geocoding will also find the location name and address of where you are standing. Tap the SHOT and FRMS fields, and quickly change the type of photo sequence and number of frames. Tap the LOC or ADDRESS fields, and you can provide your own location name and address. Return to that location in the future and PhotoSlate remembers your inputs and uses them.

In a location where there is no internet or cell service? Although PhotoSlate will be unable to reverse geocode, as long as the GPS is functioning, you can still manually enter your location and address information, and when you return to the same spot in the future, PhotoSlate will remember your information and will reverse geocode using your local data.

Additional Information PhotoSlate.

Link to the PhotoSlate Manual.

PhotoSlate

Version 1.0

Handheld Multi-Row Photo Stitching

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Dallas County Courthouse (Texas)

The old “Dallas County Courthouse” was also know as the “Old Red Courthouse,” is currently the home for the “Old Red Museum”

Sometimes I find myself wishing I had brought additional equipment for an unexpected subject. On this occasion, I wasn’t planning on any serious photography — just snapshots. I brought only my D3s and an all-purpose AF-S Nikkor 28-300 f/3.5-5.6. When I came upon this building I did not have a lens wide enough, nor did I have a tripod. I decided I had to try to capture the building anyway.

There were a couple of problems in capturing this picture

  1. I didn’t have a lens wide enough to capture the entire building in one shot
  2. I didn’t have a tripod, much less a  multi-row panoramic Head
  3. The traffic made it hard to shoot this from the street

I decided to try, a technique I am calling “Handheld Multi-Row Photo Stitching” The trick is to move the camera; not your body when composing for each section of the building. This is similar to what a “multi-row panoramic Head” would do pivoting around the lens nodal point—somewhere in the center of the lens where the aperture leaves in the lens would be.

HandStacking-ImagesI waited for the next red light, and then took series of 8 shots in a zigzagging pattern in one continuous motion

  • top tow left – top tow right,
  • row 2 right – row 2 left
  • tow 3 left –  row 3 right
  • bottom row right – bottom row left

The idea is to minimize the movement of the camera while overlapping each photo by at-least 30%.

 

The processing was 4 basic steps:

1 – Combine photos using Microsoft’s ICE

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2 – Fix perspective using Adobe’s Photoshop

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3 – Enhance Image using Adobe’s Lightroom

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4 – Make Final enhancements and remove foreground Lamp Pole using Adobe’s Photoshop

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Time: February 17, 2014 @ 2:22 pm
Camera: Nikon D3s
Lens:  Nikkor 28-300mm @ 55mm
Exposure: 8 exposures – ISO 200; f/8 @ 1/500 sec.

Pipe Organ and Virgin River – Zion National Park

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On our last trip “Two Weddings and a Dinner” I was off to photograph my two friend’s weddings less then a week apart. The first wedding was at the “Valley of the Gods” in Utah, the second wedding was at Mt Sunapee, New Hampshire. The dinner was in Washington DC for our friends annual Big Bash.

For the first Wedding we landed in Las Vegas; first stop on our way to the Valley of the Gods was Zion National Park. We arrived at Zion after dark, so we didn’t see much, and when we woke up in the morning we were treated with dense fog and pouring rain.  We had only one-half day there as we still had another 4 hours of driving and the first wedding was the next day. I thought of skipping Zion all together as it didn’t look like we would see much and the day’s forecast was not promising.  We decided to visit Zion anyway and hope for the best. 

Zion does not allow you to drive in the park. Instead, they have regular schedules buses that drive up and down the park to take you to your destination. We decided to get off at selected stops, and look for photographs near the bus stations. 

One of the stops was for the trail-head to Angels Landing, I ventured down toward the Virgin River noticed the formation of what I believe to be Pipe Organ. Angle’s Landing Is to the right and behind the me as I took this photograph.

Luckily, the clouds were beginning to break up which made for an interesting sky. For this shot, I took three exposures each two stops apart. I did process this as an HDR to bring out the sky, but limited processing to minimum the grunge effect that has given HDR processing a bad wrap.

Time: September 21, 2014 @ 11:21pm
Camera: Nikon D810
Lens:  Nikkor 14 – 24mm @ 14mm
Exposure: ISO 100; f/8 @ 1/250 sec.