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

REC-20151111-222601-2

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.

Globe Life Park – Texas Rangers – Infield

GlobeLifePark-infield

I had tickets for game two of the three game series Boston Red Sox against the Texas Rangers at the Globe Life Park played May 9, 10, 11 2014.

I had always wanted a panoramic shot of a professional baseball field — like the posters that you see at the team sporting shops. I alway thought that you had to be the park official photographer sporting a special pass. A more practical approach, I thought, was to purchase the optimal stadium photographic seat in the park (if you could figure out what seat that actually was). I had neither. The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox tend to draw large crowds in Texas, so I was lucky enough to have a ticket to a sell-out game.

I wanted a panoramic HDR shot of the field behind home plate after the sun has set.  The game started at 7:05, so I thought I would have to wait for the third or fourth inning before I attempted the shot. The good thing was that by then everyone has settled down and is engaged in watching the game. Also the section seating attendants have stopped denying access to fans trying to get into sections they do not have a seat in.

I headed up to the upper level of the park and peaked into each section until I found the section looking over home plate. I then went back out and set up my camera and monopod and got all my camera settings ready for my rapid fire HDR sequences. I then went back in, and politely asked the section attendant if I could take a photo. To my surprise he said “Sure, just don’t block anyone and don’t stay too long.” I then went to the top of the stairs and took three sets of nine exposures, left, center and right. I did this two times, then moved to the railing overlooking the park and repeated the process.

Camera: Nikon D3s
Lens: Nikon 14-24 mm f/2.8 @ 14mm
Exposure: ISO 1250; 1/250 sec at f/5.6 (initial exposure)
Bracketed exposure: 9 shots; 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, +1, +2, +3, +4 stops
Shooting Mode: Continuos High Speed at 12 Frames a second on a monopod.
Total  27 images (9 left, 9 center, 9 right).

I processed the photos first in Photmatix Pro, I started with the center section to get the look I wanted, then I saved the settings as a preset and used it to process the left and right HDR sets of images. I then used Microsoft’s ICE software to stitch the the 3 HDR images together.

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