Monthly Archives

September 2010

San Clemente Island Aerial Photograph

Aerial Photography, California

Aerial photograph of San Clemente Island, California

San Clemente Island Pyramid Head, the distinctive pyramid shaped southern end of the island.  San Clemente Island Pyramid Head, showing geologic terracing, underwater reefs and giant kelp forests

San Clemente Island Pyramid Head, the distinctive pyramid shaped southern end of the island. San Clemente Island Pyramid Head, showing geologic terracing, underwater reefs and giant kelp forests
Image ID: 26003
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA

San Clemente Island is where I have done the majority of my scuba diving. For at least 20 years I’ve been admiring the beautiful kelp forests, reefs and marine inhabitants of San Clemente Island, almost always aboard the San Diego-based dive boat Horizon. These days I’m lucky if my schedule allows me to get out there once a year for a bit of diving, but when I do and I finally get underwater it feels like I am home in a way: beams of light filtering through the towering stands of giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) on a sunny day still take my breath away (figuratively speaking). The long, flowing schools of baitfish and hefty bat rays are wonderful to behold. San Clemente Island is owned and managed by the U.S. Navy, and at times we have seen Naval jets scream just overhead as the pilots show off to the earth-bound boats below. I have often wished I could join one of those pilots so that I could see my favorite island from the air, to see it in its entirety. I finally got a chance to do that. I recently took a survey flight up the coast with a pilot friend and photographer friend and we decided to fly out to the islands. After passing by Catalina Island we looked over the waters on the weather side of San Clemente Island, from Castle Rock at the northwest end to Pyramid Cove at the southeast end. What a great day!

Kelp beds adorn the coastline of San Clemente Island, aerial photograph, Macrocystis pyrifera

Kelp beds adorn the coastline of San Clemente Island, aerial photograph
Image ID: 25984
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA

Catalina Island Aerial Photograph

Aerial Photography, California, Catalina

Aerial photograph of Catalina Island

I was very fortunate recently to have the opportunity to fly over Catalina Island, and was able to take a few photographs of the West End of the island. Growing up in Newport Beach I used to visit Catalina fairly often as a kid, and as an adult I have been diving around most of the island, but I have only seen Catalina clearly from the air a few times. Catalina Island is one of California’s jewels. It is one of the Channel Islands and shares the rugged Mediterranean appearance of its siblings. Santa Catalina Island (as it is properly known) lies less than 20 miles offshore from the Los Angeles area at its closest point. Catalina is 22 miles long and reaches of height of 2,079′ at its summit. Seen here is the west end of the island. The brown patches just offshore of the island are the upper reaches of “kelp beds”, or submarine kelp forests, which are some of the most beautiful marine habitats anywhere in the world and a major attraction at Catalina Island. Eagle Rock is seen next to the largest kelp bed (for the curious: here’s a photo underwater at Eagle Rock)

Aerial photo of the West End of Catalina Island

Aerial photo of the West End of Catalina Island
Image ID: 25978
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

Interesting fact: down there on somewhere on the West End lives a family of bald eagles whose nest can be observed by webcam.

Photo of Jupiter and moons Europa, Callisto and Ganymede

Astrophotography and Night Scapes

Photo of Jupiter and its moons Europa, Callisto and Ganymede

Last night as I put my daughter to bed, we looked out her window. The moon was bright and clear, and below and just to the right of the moon was an especially bright star. When we noticed smaller specks of light near the bright “star”, we realized that we were in fact looking at the planet Jupiter and that the small specks were several of Jupiter’s moons.

Garry McCarthy had mentioned that Jupiter was as close to Earth now as it will be for years, and had showed me a nice photo of Jupiter and its moons that he shot from his backyard. So I got out the tripod, my longest lens and set them up in the backyard, and had my daughters come out in the backyard to take a look. They were pretty stoked at being able to see another planet and a few of its moons. We swung the lens a few degrees and aimed it at the moon, and were pleased to view the fantastic details visible on the moon. My youngest asked what the rough edges of the moon were, and I told her they were “mountains on the moon” — which they are (they are the ridges of craters viewed on edge). It is amazing to me that we were able to clearly discern the moons of another planet, and indeed a bit of the bands of Jupiter, with consumer camera equipment. Granted, the lens is a high quality 500mm lens (one of the big ones you see at sporting events) but it is not meant for astronomical use.

Speaking of Garry, when we were camped at the Eureka Dunes in the remote northern reaches of Death Valley National Park, we had clear skies and superb conditions for stargazing. Garry knew exactly when the International Space Station would be making a flyby over us that very night, and it coincided with dusk. He told John Moore and me where on the horizon the Space Station would appear, and at what minute and how long it would take to cross the sky. Given the length of time it would be visible (which determined the shutter speed), I guessed at the correct exposure and set my aperture and ISO, opened the shutter a minute before the Space Station was scheduled to appear and closed it when the Space Station entered the shadow of the Earth. This is the result:

International Space Station flys over Death Valley shortly after sunset, Earth Orbit, Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy, The Universe

International Space Station flys over Death Valley shortly after sunset.
Image ID: 25247
Location: Earth Orbit, Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy, The Universe

Exposure notes: The photos of Jupiter and the Moon were made with a Canon 1Ds Mark III, Canon 500mm f/4 lens with stacked 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters. The photo of the International Space Station was made with Canon 1Ds Mark II and Canon 15mm f/2.8 fisheye lens.

Cuverville Island, Antarctica

Antarctica, Penguin, Southern Ocean

Photos of Gentoo Penguins on Cuverville Island, Antarctica

Gentoo penguin tending to its two chicks.  The nest is made of small stones, Pygoscelis papua, Cuverville Island

Gentoo penguin tending to its two chicks. The nest is made of small stones.
Image ID: 25551
Species: Gentoo penguin, Pygoscelis papua
Location: Cuverville Island, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

We are gradually working our way south along the western flanks of the Antarctica Peninsula. This afternoon we reach Cuverville Island after a 60 mile transit through the Gerlache Straight from our morning’s visit to Cierva Cove. Cuverville Island hosts a colony of Gentoo Penguins (Pygoscelis papua) and our timing coincides with the Gentoos’ rearing of their chicks. Gentoo nests are made of small stones, and the adults will frequently (almost constantly) steal stones from one another’s nests. It is a humorous situation to watch but I realize the incessent watchfulness and robbery required of their species’ lifestyle must be tiresome for these small kleptomaniacs. Watching the chicks as they are tended by their parents is the highlight of my time on Cuverville Island. They are so tiny and yet incredibly hardy to survive in such bitterly cold and windy surroundings. A Gentoo penguin chick’s home is literally a small shallow ring of stones built on bare rock, exposed to harsh wind, rain, snow and mist from the nearby ocean, with only the bulk and warmth of its parent penguin to offer any meaningful protection from the elements. Brown skuas are constantly present nearby, awaiting an opportunity to swoop in quickly and attack an unprotected penguin chick. Life is difficult here.

Gentoo penguin colony, Cuverville Island, Pygoscelis papua

Gentoo penguin colony, Cuverville Island.
Image ID: 25533
Species: Gentoo penguin, Pygoscelis papua
Location: Cuverville Island, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

Next: Port Lockroy, Antarctica
Previous: Cierva Cove, Antarctica
Trip Index: Cheesemans Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia
All “Southern Ocean” entries

Cierva Cove, Antarctica

Antarctica, Humpback Whale, Southern Ocean

Photos of Cierva Cove, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

We begin our morning today in Cierva Cove, directly south from yesterday’s landing at Bailey Head on Deception Island. Cierva Cove is said to be a good location to see marine mammals. However, this morning the skies are dark and the air is cold. Cierva Cove is choked with brash ice, and light rain has been falling on and off all morning. Some choose to remain aboard the Polar Star as it is anchored just offshore of the cove, enjoying coffee in the warm lounge on the top deck and watching the morning pass through the large windows. Not to be put off by a little weather, most of the folks on board hop in zodiacs and set off for some cruising and sightseeing amid the ice in Cierva Cove.

Brash ice and pack ice in Antarctica.  Brash ices fills the ocean waters of Cierva Cove on the Antarctic Peninsula.  The ice is a mix of sea ice that has floated near shore on the tide and chunks of ice that have fallen into the water from nearby land-bound glaciers

Brash ice and pack ice in Antarctica. Brash ices fills the ocean waters of Cierva Cove on the Antarctic Peninsula. The ice is a mix of sea ice that has floated near shore on the tide and chunks of ice that have fallen into the water from nearby land-bound glaciers.
Image ID: 25531
Location: Cierva Cove, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

Antarctic icebergs, sculpted by ocean tides into fantastic shapes, Cierva Cove

Antarctic icebergs, sculpted by ocean tides into fantastic shapes.
Image ID: 25502
Location: Cierva Cove, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

Moving about through the ice maze proves to be a bit difficult in the zodiacs and we take it slow, choosing our route carefully. Currents stir the waters in the cove, and the ice is constantly moving albeit slowly. At times, the narrow channels we use close soon after we pass through so that we cannot return the way we came, so we just proceed onward. It is fun going. There are three species of pinniped to be seen in Cierva Cove: leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx), Weddell seal (Leptonychotes Weddellii) and Crabeater seal (Lobodon carcinophagus), and soon we have seen them all. Of the three, the Weddell seals are my favorite, exhibiting beautiful spotted coats more attractive than any other seal species I have seen. It is difficult to keep the cameras dry as rain continues to fall, so I am glad I have weather covers for my gear.

Weddell seal in Antarctica.  The Weddell seal reaches sizes of 3m and 600 kg, and feeds on a variety of fish, krill, squid, cephalopods, crustaceans and penguins, Leptonychotes weddellii, Cierva Cove

Weddell seal in Antarctica. The Weddell seal reaches sizes of 3m and 600 kg, and feeds on a variety of fish, krill, squid, cephalopods, crustaceans and penguins.
Image ID: 25501
Species: Weddell seal, Leptonychotes weddellii
Location: Cierva Cove, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

A leopard seal in Antarctica.  The leopard seal is a large predatory seal, up to 1300 lb and 11 ft in length, feeding on krill, squid, fish, various penguin species and other seabirds and occasionally, other pinnipeds, Hydrurga leptonyx, Cierva Cove

A leopard seal in Antarctica. The leopard seal is a large predatory seal, up to 1300 lb and 11 ft in length, feeding on krill, squid, fish, various penguin species and other seabirds and occasionally, other pinnipeds.
Image ID: 25526
Species: Leopard seal, Hydrurga leptonyx
Location: Cierva Cove, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

Three glaciers flow into Cierva Cove, plowing down from the inland slopes above us with towering walls of ice leading the way. These glaciers shed enormous blocks of blue ice, frozen floating progeny that will soon drift away from the cove and disperse into the ocean. Occasionally we see ice break from the face of the glacier and fall, calving with loud cracking sounds that echo around the cove. When the blocks plunge into the water they create long rolling swells that generate low rumbling sounds as the bergs around us bump together. Argentina’s Primavera Research Station is located on an exposed rocky peninsula nearby, a group of small red buildings and several radio antennae. Given the weather we have today, the station looks like a very cold workplace indeed.

Primavera Base, (Argentina) on the slopes above Cierva Cove, Antarctica

Primavera Base, (Argentina) on the slopes above Cierva Cove, Antarctica.
Image ID: 25556
Location: Cierva Cove, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

Zodiac cruising in Antarctica.  Tourists enjoy the pack ice and towering glaciers of Cierva Cove on the Antarctic Peninsula

Zodiac cruising in Antarctica. Tourists enjoy the pack ice and towering glaciers of Cierva Cove on the Antarctic Peninsula.
Image ID: 25590
Location: Cierva Cove, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

Eventually we leave the thick brash ice and motor about in the open water a mile or so offshore, in hopes of seeing a whale. Indeed, we soon come across a few minke whales, fast and sleek. They seem inquisitive and swim near our zodiac a few times, then disappear with nary a clue as to where they have gone. Other zodiacs see minkes throughout the morning. Soon a small group of humpback whales are spotted. Doug Cheeseman, who is driving our zodiac this morning, has had years of experience boating near whales and does a great job of predicting where the humpbacks will surface. For 30 minutes or so the whales simply surface and sink back under. Eventually, however, they begin raising their flukes as they dive, providing the photographers on our inflatable with great ops. After watching the whales for a long time, everyone on the zodiac is eventually chilled to the core and we head back to the M/V Polar Star to warm up and move to the afternoon’s landing at Cuverville Island. This morning offered our best views of marine mammals on the trip so far.

Southern humpback whale in Antarctica, lifting its fluke (tail) before diving in Cierva Cove, Antarctica, Megaptera novaeangliae

Southern humpback whale in Antarctica, lifting its fluke (tail) before diving in Cierva Cove, Antarctica.
Image ID: 25518
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae
Location: Cierva Cove, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

Next: Cuverville Island, Antarctica
Previous: Bailey Head, Deception Island, Antarctica
Trip Index: Cheesemans Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia
All “Southern Ocean” entries

Guadalupe Island Diving Trip, July 2011

Guadalupe Island

I’m very happy to announce that our annual Guadalupe Island diving trip is on for July 2011! Skip Stubbs is once again personally leading this special trip to dive remote and unique Isla Guadalupe using the San Diego-based dive boat Horizon as our home-away-from-home. At present this trip is by invitation only (i.e., the entire boat is reserved and Skip is determining who the participants will be). If you are seriously interested in joining us, please get in touch with Skip (or me if you prefer) to discuss it. We have put together a lengthy flyer describing the trip, with links to many photos and lots of information about the island itself. Please read through the PDF brochure first, especially if you do not know anything about Guadalupe Island. You can print out if you wish (it will open in a new window):

Note: this is not a shark diving trip. This is an open water SCUBA and freediving trip designed to offer our guests opportunities to appreciate the unique inhabitants and explore the underwater scenery of Guadalupe Island. This is the only open-water diving trip to Guadalupe Island, this year (or probably ever), that we know of. The dates are July 21-29, 9 calendar days with 7 fulls days of diving and two travel days.

Cortez chubb, Kyphosus elegans, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

Cortez chubb.
Image ID: 01020
Species: Cortez chubb, Kyphosus elegans
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

East face and shoreline of southernmost morro, daybreak, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

East face and shoreline of southernmost morro, daybreak.
Image ID: 06152
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Isla Afuera is a volcanic plug towering 700 feet above the ocean near the south end of Guadalupe Island.  Its steep cliffs extend underwater hundreds of feet offering spectacular wall diving and submarine topography, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

Isla Afuera is a volcanic plug towering 700 feet above the ocean near the south end of Guadalupe Island. Its steep cliffs extend underwater hundreds of feet offering spectacular wall diving and submarine topography.
Image ID: 09753
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Keywords: Guadalupe Island, Mexico, Isla Guadalupe, scuba diving, free diving, dive boat Horizon, Baja California, San Diego.

Coast Redwood Tree, Sequoia sempervirens

California, Redwood, Trees

Stock photos of Sequoia sempervirens, the Coast Redwood Tree.

Sequoia sempervirens, also known as the Coast Redwood, Giant Redwood, or simply Redwood Tree, is the tallest species of tree in the world. The Coast Redwood tree is the only member of the genus Sequoia, part of the Cypress tree family. Reaching heights of 380′ (115m), the Coast Redwood is also one of the oldest and largest (most massive) organisms in the world, living as long as 3500 years and growing to over 25′ (8m) in diameter and 42,000 cubic feet.

Giant redwood, Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park.  The coastal redwood, or simply 'redwood', is the tallest tree on Earth, reaching a height of 379' and living 3500 years or more.  It is native to coastal California and the southwestern corner of Oregon within the United States, but most concentrated in Redwood National and State Parks in Northern California, found close to the coast where moisture and soil conditions can support its unique size and growth requirements, Sequoia sempervirens

Giant redwood, Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park. The coastal redwood, or simply ‘redwood’, is the tallest tree on Earth, reaching a height of 379′ and living 3500 years or more. It is native to coastal California and the southwestern corner of Oregon within the United States, but most concentrated in Redwood National and State Parks in Northern California, found close to the coast where moisture and soil conditions can support its unique size and growth requirements.
Image ID: 25800
Species: Coast redwood, giant redwood, California redwood, Sequoia sempervirens
Location: Redwood National Park, California, USA

The natural range of the Coast Redwood is quite limited, comprising a strip of coastline in northern California and southern Oregon about 470 miles long but extending inland only about 50 miles and typically much less. Coast Redwood trees thrive in this region due in part to the large amounts of moisture that reach the groves through fog that originates over the ocean, as well as plenty of rain (up to 100″ annually). Redwoods that live above the fog layer, and thus only receive moisture in the form of rain and are subject to colder and more arid conditions, are significantly shorter and less massive than those lower and closer to the coast.

Giant redwood, Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park.  The coastal redwood, or simply 'redwood', is the tallest tree on Earth, reaching a height of 379' and living 3500 years or more.  It is native to coastal California and the southwestern corner of Oregon within the United States, but most concentrated in Redwood National and State Parks in Northern California, found close to the coast where moisture and soil conditions can support its unique size and growth requirements, Sequoia sempervirens

Giant redwood, Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park. The coastal redwood, or simply ‘redwood’, is the tallest tree on Earth, reaching a height of 379′ and living 3500 years or more. It is native to coastal California and the southwestern corner of Oregon within the United States, but most concentrated in Redwood National and State Parks in Northern California, found close to the coast where moisture and soil conditions can support its unique size and growth requirements.
Image ID: 25799
Species: Coast redwood, giant redwood, California redwood, Sequoia sempervirens
Location: Redwood National Park, California, USA

Coast redwood, or simply 'redwood', the tallest tree on Earth, reaching a height of 379' and living 3500 years or more.  It is native to coastal California and the southwestern corner of Oregon within the United States, but most concentrated in Redwood National and State Parks in Northern California, found close to the coast where moisture and soil conditions can support its unique size and growth requirements, Sequoia sempervirens, Redwood National Park

Coast redwood, or simply ‘redwood’, the tallest tree on Earth, reaching a height of 379′ and living 3500 years or more. It is native to coastal California and the southwestern corner of Oregon within the United States, but most concentrated in Redwood National and State Parks in Northern California, found close to the coast where moisture and soil conditions can support its unique size and growth requirements.
Image ID: 25801
Species: Coast redwood, giant redwood, California redwood, Sequoia sempervirens
Location: Redwood National Park, California, USA

Coast Redwood trees reproduce sexually through small winged seeds that are dispersed up to 300′ (100m) from the parent tree. Seedlings grow quickly, up to 8′ in their first season. Asexual reproduction is also common, especially when a mature Redwood tree falls: multiple new trees may sprout from the fallen log.

Roosevelt Elk, Cervus canadensis roosevelti

Elk, Redwood

Photos of Roosevelt Elk (Cervus canadensis roosevelti) in Redwood National Park

The Roosevelt Elk (Cervus canadensis roosevelti) is the largest of the four surviving subspecies of elk in North America. Roosevelt elk are found in temperate rainforests and meadows of the Pacific Northwest, including Olympic and Redwood National Park. Only male Roosevelt elk grow antlers, which are covered in a skin-like “velvet” until the antlers are fully grown, at which point the velvet is shed. A bull, or adult male, elk shown below is shedding the last of its velvet. The antlers, which grow to 4′ long, are dropped each winter only to be regrown the following spring. We had a herd of wild Roosevelt elk near our cabin during much of our stay in Redwood National Park, much to the delight of my kids. One evening I was able to photograph them just a few feet from the back porch, occasionally leaving my camera on its tripod for a few moments to return to the BBQ and flip the steaks I was grilling and then go back to the elk for more photos. Thank goodness for high ISO cameras, my Roosevelt elk photographs were shot in very low light.

Roosevelt elk, adult bull male with large antlers.  Roosevelt elk grow to 10' and 1300 lb, eating grasses, sedges and various berries, inhabiting the coastal rainforests of the Pacific Northwest, Cervus canadensis roosevelti, Redwood National Park, California

Roosevelt elk, adult bull male with large antlers. Roosevelt elk grow to 10′ and 1300 lb, eating grasses, sedges and various berries, inhabiting the coastal rainforests of the Pacific Northwest.
Image ID: 25885
Species: Roosevelt elk, Cervus canadensis roosevelti
Location: Redwood National Park, California, USA

Keywords: Roosevelt elk, Roosevelt Elk, Cervus canadensis roosevelti, wapiti, Redwood National Park.

LR/Enfuse — A HDR Plugin for Adobe Lightroom

Photography, Utah

I recently discovered a great plugin for Lightroom: LR/Enfuse. (Yup, I may be a little late to the game, but given that I have only been using Lightroom since January it is to be expected.) LR/Enfuse blends multiple images to produce HDR (high dynamic range) images or focus-stacked images. It works within the Lightroom workflow, resulting in a 16-bit TIF file that is automatically imported into the Lightroom catalog alongside the source images. It seems very fast, and given how well it is integrated into Lightroom I find it incredibly easy to use. For me, the most important characteristic of LR/Enfuse is that the images generally look much more natural than what I have achieved using tone mapping techniques and do not, to my eye, have much or any of the “HDR Look”.

What is the “HDR Look“? Justice Potter Stewart, when describing obscenity in a legal case with historic ramifications, famously intoned “… I know it when I see it…”. The notion applies equally well to the HDR Look. Photographers are familiar with the highly processed look that HDR can produce and, while many use the HDR Look to good advantage in Flickr galleries or on websites with a few even making a career out of HDR imagery, I try to avoid overdoing it. HDR software is fun yet I liken its use in the hands of some photographers to handing a 16-year-old the keys to my Porsche Panamera — it is often a recipe for disaster unless considerable restraint is involved. (OK, that last part was a total lie, I don’t have a Porsche.)

Yet there are situations in which the contrast range of a scene is too great for today’s best cameras to accomodate, even using graduated ND filters, in which cases HDR techniques may help solve exposure challenges. I have used Photomatix for years to blend HDR images but have never really been satisfied with the results. In my experience, Photomatix processing often introduces localized color shifts or changes in saturation that appear obvious and unnatural, and the final results of the blending typically do not match the quick preview that Photomatix offers, which means I am never really certain exactly how the HDR image will look until after the time-consuming Photomatix process is complete. Now, to be fair, there are many photographers using Photomatix with incredible results. The Photomatix workflow, even employing the Lightroom plugin version of Photomatix, seems slow and often requires that I cycle through several blending variations before I obtain a result that I can use as a starting point from which further blending and masking in Photoshop can be done. My poor results are probably due to my lack of experience or unwillingness to develop sufficient expertise more than any flaw in the Photomatix software. Nevertheless, I have never really been pleased with the results of HDR blending using Photomatix, nor with the amount of time that is required to produce a good final result.

On the other hand, I am very happy (so far) with the speed, ease of use, results and cost of LR/Enfuse. The LR/Enfuse plugin is “donationware” which means you make a donation to the software project and receive an code by email that unlocks all the features of the software. Don’t be fooled by the donationware business model of this software enterprise. The algorithms behind LR/Enfuse arise from some brilliant minds in the imaging field, and the 64-bit executable that is employed to process the images is bloody fast on my quad-core iMac. I made a donation, installed and licensed the software on my Mac, and made a few trial HDR blends on recent coast redwood images I shot. But I needed something with greater dynamic range to really test it out, so I recalled some very harsh images I shot in and around Arches and Canyonlands National Parks a few years ago. I was on a tight schedule and did not have the ability to wait for the sweet light of sunrise and sunset at all locations, often shooting in harsh light. I shot bracketed sequences hoping that later I could solve the exposure problems with software. At the time I used Photomatix and did manage to produce some blends, but the results (as you will see below) are not the best. In the course of an hour I made new versions of 12 different HDR series using the LR/Enfuse plugin in Lightroom, and am generally very happy with the results. The colors seem more honest, not exhibiting the shifts in hue and saturation that I have observed often using Photomatix. In the three examples below the only processing I did was to set saturation to +10 in Lightroom, then run the LR/Enfuse plugin using its default settings, wait for the blended image to be created and automatically imported back into Lightroom (usually about 10-15 seconds) and then apply a curve adjustment, generally to pull down the mid-darks. That’s it! As I said, I processed 12 complete HDR sets in one hour, including the time it took to install and learn the program, and even using just the default settings I am quite happy with the results. Furthermore, the LR/Enfuse versions appear to me to be exceptionally sharp when viewed at 100%, with no ghosting of any kind, whereas Photomatix produces, for me at least, images that are quite soft and must be sharpened quite a bit before presenting online or to clients.

Example 1: Wilson Arch

Blending example #1 is Wilson Arch, shot with a Canon 15mm f/2.8 fisheye lens and Canon 1Ds Mark II camera. Bracketing was accomplished by varying the shutter speed (constant aperture, very important) one and two-third stops for each exposure step. LR/Enfuse does have an optional image-align-stacking step, but it does slow the process down. I found that the alignment step could be omitted for my images since they had been taken while the camera was locked down on a very heavy tripod.


Example 2: Mesa Arch

The second example is of Mesa Arch, a very commonly photographed arch in Canyonlands National Park, again shot with a Canon 15mm f/2.8 fisheye lens, Canon 1Ds Mark II camera and using one and two-third stop brackets.






Example 3: Pine Tree Arch

The last example is of Pine Tree Arch in Arches National Park, with the same equipment and bracketing. In these images I applied some lens distortion correction. Lightroom’s lens profiles must be great since the results after “defishing” are sharp corner to corner.






Conclusions

Are these new images made with LR/Enfuse better than the previous ones I made with Photomatix? I’ll need to consider them for a while, along with the other 20-30 HDR images I have in my files. I can say the LR/Enfuse is so quick and easy to use that I won’t hesitate to shoot a bracketed tripod-mounted sequence when shooting landscapes and the dynamic range suggests HDR might have promise. With the bracket series imported into Lightroom, it literally takes a minute or less to apply basic raw processing adjustments (such as baseline saturation, contrast, brightness, etc. ) to the middle image in the sequence, sync those settings to the other images in the sequence, blend the images using LR/Enfuse into a 16-bit TIF and then perform any final adjustments to the blended image in Lightroom.

As a final word I will mention that I consider my photography to be “natural history photography“. The clients who license my images are primarily publishers and editors for whom truthfulness and realism in imagery is very important. I do not limit myself to images that are made only “in camera”, nor do I limit myself to images made only from a single frame if the limitations of the camera get in the way of achieving the final result. However, when combining or blending frames, either in panoramic images, in “handmade” masked images or in HDR images made with software tools, honesty and a straightforward depiction of the subject are driving forces for me.

Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park

California, Redwood, Trees

Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwood National Park is gorgeous. From clover and ferns covering the soil to tall rhododendron bushes at eye level to the coast redwood trees (Sequoia sempervirens) and Douglas firs towering above, this grove seems to harbor countless shades of green and brown. I spent two mornings in Lady Bird Johnson Grove recently, not seeing another person either morning**, and really enjoyed my time among these epic trees. Fortunately for my cameras, on the second morning I was blessed with light fog that produced sufficiently soft light that I was able to obtain the type of evenly exposed images of these giant redwoods I was hoping to make.

Giant redwood, Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park.  The coastal redwood, or simply 'redwood', is the tallest tree on Earth, reaching a height of 379' and living 3500 years or more.  It is native to coastal California and the southwestern corner of Oregon within the United States, but most concentrated in Redwood National and State Parks in Northern California, found close to the coast where moisture and soil conditions can support its unique size and growth requirements, Sequoia sempervirens

Giant redwood, Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park. The coastal redwood, or simply ‘redwood’, is the tallest tree on Earth, reaching a height of 379′ and living 3500 years or more. It is native to coastal California and the southwestern corner of Oregon within the United States, but most concentrated in Redwood National and State Parks in Northern California, found close to the coast where moisture and soil conditions can support its unique size and growth requirements.
Image ID: 25795
Species: Coast redwood, giant redwood, California redwood, Sequoia sempervirens
Location: Redwood National Park, California, USA

The most useful lens in this grove was my Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 II. I find that my copy of this lens is very sharp at f/8-16 at all focal lengths except 16mm, so when I wanted a very wide image I would rack the zoom ring all the way out and then just back off a tiny bit (17mm?). I did shoot a few HDR images since upward looking compositions in a forest can be difficult to expose properly. HDR, or high dynamic range photography, uses a sequence of images in which the exposure is systematically varied and, when later combined on a computer using special software, hopefully results in an image that has greater range than can be obtained in a single exposure. However, I find that natural-looking results are usually difficult to obtain with HDR software, and my attempts with redwood trees were no different, so I have included only five HDR images (created using Photomatix from 3-5 original frames) in the images I have kept for my files. I was, however, pleasantly surprised to find that the noise on my Canon 1Ds Mark III and Canon 5D Mark II cameras, combined with ISO 100 and long exposure times, was low enough that I was able to sufficiently lighten shadow areas to make the images I originally envisioned.

Ferns grow below coastal redwood and Douglas Fir trees, Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park.  The coastal redwood, or simply 'redwood', is the tallest tree on Earth, reaching a height of 379' and living 3500 years or more.  It is native to coastal California and the southwestern corner of Oregon within the United States, but most concentrated in Redwood National and State Parks in Northern California, found close to the coast where moisture and soil conditions can support its unique size and growth requirements, Sequoia sempervirens

Ferns grow below coastal redwood and Douglas Fir trees, Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park. The coastal redwood, or simply ‘redwood’, is the tallest tree on Earth, reaching a height of 379′ and living 3500 years or more. It is native to coastal California and the southwestern corner of Oregon within the United States, but most concentrated in Redwood National and State Parks in Northern California, found close to the coast where moisture and soil conditions can support its unique size and growth requirements.
Image ID: 25796
Species: Coast redwood, giant redwood, California redwood, Sequoia sempervirens
Location: Redwood National Park, California, USA

Commemoration plaque in Lady Bird Johnson Grove, marking the place where President Richard Nixon dedicated this coastal redwood grove to Lady Bird Johnson, an environmental activist and former first lady, Sequoia sempervirens, Redwood National Park, California

Commemoration plaque in Lady Bird Johnson Grove, marking the place where President Richard Nixon dedicated this coastal redwood grove to Lady Bird Johnson, an environmental activist and former first lady.
Image ID: 25808
Species: Coast redwood, giant redwood, California redwood, Sequoia sempervirens
Location: Redwood National Park, California, USA

**Make sure to get there early so that the tranquility of your visit is not brought crashing down to Earth by the laughter of kids playing tag along the path or the shouts of their parents trying to rein them in.