Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Say Hello to Little Maya

Little Maya was so excited to come out and meet her parents, she decided to do it nearly 3 weeks early. She was born today at 7:10 PM weighing 6lbs. Both mom and baby are fine and are resting; I'm going to catch a few zzz's and head back to the hospital in the morning.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Deneb and Andromeda again

Another clear, moonless night last night, so another astro session. This time I really wanted to try and capture the nebulosity near Deneb well, so I I took 19 2 minute exposures and stacked them. The resulting file after processing is about 4500 pixels across and has pretty good detail, I think it will an excellent large print.

I also tried using the 300 f/2.8 IS for astrophotography for the first time last night to get a better image of Andromeda. With the increased focal length, I had to drop the exposures to about 80 seconds and shoot wide open (at f/2.8). This also meant I had more images to stack (about 60). Again, I am pretty happy with the results, but I may need to tweak some of the processing just a little bit more.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Andromeda & M52

We had another clear night yesterday so once again I tried to image Andromeda. This time I captured a stack of 15 2 minute exposures. I also used slightly different processing options to generate this image. I think the central core is better defined here than my previous attempt.

I also managed to capture a series of 10 images of M52, an open cluster located in the milky way band.

Technical Specs: Canon Rebel XSi (full spectrum), Hutech LPS filter, 200 f/2.8 @ f/3.5, 2 min, ISO 800.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Deneb & Andromeda

The Clear Sky Clock warned me of a relatively clear night last night and sure enough at around 8 PM, looking upward the seeing seemed like it could be decent. Light pollution was still a major problem but I decided to set up the Astrotrac and try anyway. It has been several months since I'd set it up and have missed the opportunity to image summertime DSOs. In particular I wanted to photograph M31 (Andromeda Galaxy), however it was still too low in the horizon and so was blocked by the house. I decided instead to kill some time by imaging the region near Deneb. The nebulosity (including the North America nebula and the Pelican nebula) near the star Deneb is one of the most impressive regions in Cygnus. My timer remote was being uncooperative so this image is the result of stacking only 2 images, both 2 minute exposures. Overall, I'm pretty happy with the result, but I'll definitely be trying again as soon as I can with a lot more images in the stack.

I also managed to image M31 before heading to bed. This was the result of stacking 5 images, each 2 minutes long.

Technical Specs: Canon Rebel XSI (full spectrum) /w Hutech LPS filter, 200mm f/2.8 II, f/4, 2min.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cat is out of the bag (Photoshop CS4)

Adobe announced the release of Creative Suite 4, which includes Photoshop CS4. The web is abuzz with many new features in Photoshop CS4, but I'll talk about one new feature in the Extended version, the ray tracer. The ray tracer in Photoshop CS4 Extended is used to do both interactive rendering (can be used as a software fallback if OpenGL doesn't work on your system) or final quality rendering (to render images like the one above). :)

The above scene is the Sibenik cathedral model (modeled by Marko Dabrovic). I loaded the scene which came with textures. I placed two light sources to get the look I wanted. The above image highlights a couple of features in the ray tracer including: 32-bit HDR rendering; soft shadows; and diffuse inter-reflection.

So why should anyone care about 3D in Photoshop? Obviously one could easily render the above scene in a plethora of 3D rendering packages. However there are other use-cases where this ability can really shine. One example is painting on 3D models. Photoshop's core strength is in image painting and editing tools. Now those same tools can be used directly on a 3D model. This should really help the workflows of texture artists.

Another use of this feature is in digital insertion. Imagine working on a composition in PS and you want to insert a simple 3D object. Now you could grab the model, fire up your external 3D package, flip back and forth with the image in PS to get the lighting correct, render the image out, import it as a layer and finally composite your image. Or you could import the model directly into PS, set up your lighting with the 3D in place in the composition and then just render.

In the coming days I'll try to get some tutorials up detailing how to use some of the features in the ray tracer as well as some other non-3D Photoshop CS4 features that I've found very useful.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Lizards and Flies

I was out working in the yard today and noticed several little lizards darting about. This guy was sunning himself on a rock and remained fairly still. I quickly grabbed my camera and to my surprise, he was still there. I grabbed several shots until he eventually scurried away.

I then spotted a fly which temporarily landed on a tomato plant, so I also snapped a couple of shots of the fly.

On a different note, this week Canon announced the replacement to their widely successful 5D camera, the 5D Mark II. Along with sporting a 21mp sensor capable of shooting at ISO 6400 (and up with 25,600) it also features the ability to capture 1080p HD video at 30 FPS. Some have bashed this feature as nothing but a gimmick but others including renowned and Pulitzer prize winning photographer Vincent Laforet are very excited about it.

I'll reserve judgment until I try it out for myself (I'm especially curious to see if it suffers from the same "jello" effect from the rolling shutter that the Nikon D90 does).

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Rippling Moon

Last night, the moon happened to be in a good phase (not full) and a good location (fairly high up at around 10pm) in the sky to photograph. I took a stream of images with the 600 and put them together in an animated GIF and you can see just how poor the viewing was. There is a shimmering or rippling effect over the surface of the moon and is this is an example of somewhat poor Astronomical Seeing.

I did manage to stack the 9 images I captured in Photoshop and then did some careful sharpening to try to extract detail. Pictured above is my result.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 600 f/4 IS + 2x + 1.4x TCs (1680mm equiv.), f/11, 1/80s, ISO 800 (9 image stack).

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Congratulations Sukanya & Gregory

This weekend I flew to Columbus, Ohio to attend my cousin Sukanya's wedding. The day went smoothly and everyone had a great time. It was also a chance for me to see my cousins whom I hadn't really talked to in two years. I've got several hundred images from the day which I need to process in the upcoming weeks.

Technical Specs: Canon 5D, 24-70 @ 42mm, f/4, 1/800s, ISO 400.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Afternoon in SF

I've driven past Golden Gate park many times on my way up to either Muir Woods or San Rafael and each time I drive through the park I tell myself that I should stop in and visit. On Monday, we decided to visit the park since we had to head up to SF anyway to drop off my sister.

A park of its massive size, I was mentally prepared to have my mind blown by amazing sights. In particular I really wanted to see the Japanese Tea Garden about which seems to be quite lauded.

My mind was blown, blown by how lame it was. Of course there is my usual complaint of many big cities, the difficulty in finding parking, but I can most deal with that if the venue is worthwhile. In this case, it seems as though a majority of this vast park is just set up for people sit on the grass and have a picnic. Ok, well that was a disappointing, but no big deal, a big city needs such parks so that those folks who don't have large backyards can go somewhere to enjoy some grass and toss a Frisbee around. I figured the arboretum and tea garden would be amazing. We walked through the arboretum and that was such disappointment I was questioning if hadn't inadvertently missed it.

And then there was the Japanese Tea Garden. First they claim that the garden is free on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, but they still charged $5 on Monday probably because it was a holiday. Fine by me for an amazing tea garden experience. Sadly, that wasn't to be. The garden was small and there really was nothing special about it. No ornately arranged plants, no rock garden, very plain and very boring. About the only mildly interesting thing is this bridge. Now this is the second so called Japanese garden I've been to in the Bay Area which has been a disappointment (the first was Hakone Gardens). Am I just expecting too much? Of course I've seen far better gardens in Tokyo and Osaka but my expectations were definitely not to their level.

So we got bored fairly quickly and decided to head to the Golden Gate bridge and go for a short walk along the bridge. It was one of those rare days where the bay was clear so there was a good view.
Since I didn't get a chance to see the conservatory of flowers this time, I may consider visiting the park again to see the conservatory but my hopes aren't very high.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Burst of Color

On Sunday I went for a hike with my sister at Pinnacles National Monument. It was a fun hike and this time I took the opportunity to photograph some of the Lichen. They are everywhere and the colors are very vibrant so its a fun subject to photograph.

Technical Specs: Canon Rebel XSi, 60mm macro.