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Copyright ©2017 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

I didn’t get out too much this past week-end unfortunately,  my original plan to shoot the night sky Saturday fell apart. So I had a Plan B, but that fell apart too. (sigh) Plan A got cancelled due to all the smoke in the air from the Detwiler Fire burning near and around Mariposa, and Yosemite NP.  As I write this 76,000 acres have burned.  Evacuation orders have been lifted in some areas, but Firefighters are saying it may take up to two more weeks for the fire to be fully extinguished.  It’s so sad!

Plan B was scuttled when a friend had to change plans, and I didn’t want to be alone so I stayed home and painted a bit.

Before all that happened my Archive Drive crashed Thursday and Saturday afternoon we were still recovering images and documents from our back-up drive, and cloud service. I can’t tell you how scary that is to think thousands of images made over the course of many years may be lost!  I’ve got them all back, but my external drive is full no doubt due to the huge 36mp files of the D810 so, we bought a new external drive which should be here this week. Then I’ll have my stuff backed up two places, have room to grow, and feel much, much better!

Saturday evening I pulled out an old book I have by Ferdinand Petrie, called Drawing Landscapes in Pencil and stayed up late to practice some drawing then I added some watercolor to it.  Wanna see? If you follow me on Instagram you’ve already seen this. 🙂

I had some new watercolor paper to try too. It’s by Legion papers called Stonehenge Aqua. I like it. There’s not much blooming or bleeding, and the colors look wonderful on it to me.  It’s got some tooth, but not as much as Arches cold press paper. I prefer the smoother hot press papers, so this paper just might be the perfect balance for me.

Ranch Watercolor

Sunday He-Man and I rose early to get on the trail early; we were extending our route and wanted to beat the heat. It was going to be in 90’s again Sunday. We were on the trail just before 7am.  There were quite a few cars already parked near the trail-head when we arrived.  A lot of others had the same idea to beat the heat and get an early start.  We parked at the bottom of the mountain, and planned to  hike up into Fremont Older an Open Space Preserve.

There are a few options to get up there; the most popular routes are:  take the road all the way up to stage 3 of the Parker Ranch Trail system and hike the rest the way up via the trail, or do what we did and walk along the road to Stage 1 of the trail, then you come out on the road again for a bit then catch Stage 2 which is the toughest bit with some switchbacks at an 8% grade.  I was huffin’ and puffin’ going up those. At the top of those you meet Stage 3 of the trail.  There are two sets of switchbacks on this part of the trail, but they aren’t nearly as steep as Stage 2’s.

When we crossed into Fremont Older Open Space Preserve we hiked up to the top of the Toyon Trail then turned around to head back. We altered our route on the way back by bypassing the Stage 2 part and chose a different section of the trail that meanders through an Oak grove, and you climb another steep hill to meet the road. We walked down the road to Stage 1 of the trail and  caught the road back to the car. Phew! Hope that makes sense! Here’s a screen shot of my route from my Garmin Edge 500.

Morning Hike Route Saratoga

He-Man’s not as fast as he was going downhill since his Patella Tendon ruptured nearly 3 yrs ago so, if my time looks slow…it is. When I’m heading down at my normal pace I get way ahead of him so, I turn around a go back until I see him. I get some extra steps that way too. 🙂

There was a lot of fog and, we’re getting some smoke from the fire up here. Here’s one image from the trail. I took this with my iPhone. I went gear light today.

View North from the trail

The faint peak in the fog and smoke on the right might be Mt. Diablo at  (3,889 feet (1,185 m)) high.  The highest hilltop on the left is Hunter’s Point in Fremont Older Open Space Preserve.

We hiked 4.34 miles,  gained 827 ft in elevation, and were back in the car headed home by 8:55am! Not too bad.

We spent the afternoon looking at Loveseats, and bought two. Our current two are really beat up and have needed replacing for over a year, but with a 4 yr old at home we put it off for as long as we could stand it.  Now we’re excited for the new ones to arrive!

That was my week-end. I hope you all had a lovely week-end and got to have a bit of fun, and relax so you’re ready for the week ahead.  I hope it’s a great week for us all!

iPhone 7 Plus| PS CC 2017

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Copyright © 2017 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Nikon D700| Nikkor 300mm| Lexar Digital Film| PS CC2017

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Copyright © 2012 -2017 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

There’s a Total Solar Eclipse event happening August 21, 2017 that can be seen in a large swath of North America. If you’re fortunate enough to be living in the center zone or can travel to see Totality, and photograph it you might want to make an image showing all the phases of the transition.  I thought this tutorial I wrote back in 2012 after viewing and photographing the Annular Solar Eclipse on blending multiple phases of the transition might be useful.  You can see my post and images on that event here.

I have been thinking about reposting this post for a month but,  actually doing so was because Joanne, the blogger of My life lived Full   said to me she’d like to know more about blending images earlier this week, and she thought others would like to understand it better as well.  I hope this makes some sense to you after reading it Joanne. 🙂

Unfortunately, I am not going to be able to travel to see Totality of this Eclipse but, I plan to photograph the Partial eclipse I’ll be able to see in my city. If all goes well with my imaging of the Eclipse I’ll be using these steps to make a blended composite image of the phases of the Partial Solar event.

There are a lot of steps, and it can be overwhelming if you’re not familiar with Layer masks, and painting within Photoshop’s environment.  Take it slow, and practice with images you already have before hand. If you already know how layers work, and have used masks and blending modes within Photoshop before this will make more sense to you.

Let’s get on with it! 🙂

How to make a composite of the Phases of the Annular Solar Eclipse

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I had some idea about how to go about assembling the composite above.

I knew there would be layers and masks involved, but how to actually do what I needed was beyond me. For days before the Annular Solar Eclipse I searched online for a tutorial but didn’t find anything close.

I asked a couple of friends and they said, “Oh, it is easy!” That was followed with, “you use a mask, and then change the opacity, move things around or you can make a selection…” I appreciated the responses, and admire their Photoshop, photographic skills, and talent immensely. Their “want to help a friend” generous spirits are why I love them. However, those answers weren’t specific or detailed enough for my brain to understand all the steps involved. I need “step by step” guidance so I went online again to YouTube to look for a tutorial on basic blending in Photoshop. I just did a search and starting watching tutorials. After watching a couple of tutorials I decided I’d give it a go since I do have a basic understanding of masking, and painting, and I’ve used blending before with other photos, and the tutorials assured me the way I was thinking was the right way to make the composite image I had in mind.

After finishing this composite I thought I’d write down the steps to help me in the future, and to help a couple of people who have asked me how I made this after seeing my finished work. There are many different ways to go about doing things in Photoshop. This is what I did.

1. Working from Bridge in CS5 Note: The steps I followed work with Adobe CC as well. I determined which photograph was to be my background layer. I chose the “Ring of Fire” – the middle image from the composite image above. I selected it, and then determined which 4 additional photos I would use to show the Phases of the Sun in the first half of the Solar Eclipse. I selected each photo by holding down ctrl + alt then clicked on each of my desired photos. Next I opened the 5 selections in Adobe Camera Raw by holding down ctrl + o.

2. Once opened in Adobe Camera Raw hereafter called ACR. You’ll see all the photos in a film strip on the left of the ACR workspace. I clicked on each photo individually rather than syncing them all at the same time. Some of the exposures were slightly different and I wanted to tweak the exposure of each Sun so all would be the same color. If all your photos are a color to your liking then you can Select All, then after making the adjustments you want click Synchronize> OK. However I did this:

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3. Click on the top photo in the film strip then make the following adjustments:

4. Exposure slider– adjusted so all the Suns were approximately the same color.

Recovery – Slide to the right so all the clipping was gone or nearly gone.

The following settings can be tweaked to your own liking. This is what I used and they should give you a good start.

Brightness– +50

Contrast– +36

Blacks– slid slider all the way to the left to recover blacks

Clarity-+20

Vibrance -+15 or just until the photo “pops” you’ll know it when you see it.

Then I went to the Lens Correction filter the 6th filter in the options bars of ACR.

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Check the box “Enable Lens Profile Correction” and my lens profile automatically popped up in the next section of the panel named Lens Profile. If yours does not pop into the dialog box then go down one section to “Lens Profile” and click on the drop down menu and select your cameras brand then from the box under that click on the arrow to open the drop down menu to select your lens or one close to it.

Then moving to the left side where the strip of all your photos are click the next photo and make the same adjustments to it, and then repeat until you’ve made the same adjustments to all the photos in the strip. Then at the top of the Film Strip you see Select All click it, Then hold down the Alt key which changes the button “open image” in the bottom right corner to “Open Copies” click to open copies. All 5 photos will be opened in Photoshop’s Editor.

5.

When all the photos are in the Editor you will see the background layer in your layers palette on the right highlighted. Go to menu bar on the top of Photoshop and click Windows> Arrange>Tile. This changes all the photos into tiles in your workspace so you can see them a bit better. Select the photo you want to place on the left of the Ring of Fire hereafter called the Background Layer. We’re going to copy that photo onto our Background layer. Click on the photo>From the Menu bar click Select>All. Marching ants are now all around the selected photo. Hold down ctrl+c to copy it then go to your chosen Background Image click on it then click crtl+ v to paste the photo to the image as a new layer named Layer 1. You don’t need the photo you copied now that it’s been moved onto the Background Layer, but before closing it I clicked File>SAVE AS renamed it Phase 4, and chose “Save As” a PSD file then closed the file. I’ll be able to find it quickly if I need it again.

6.

On your Layers palette there are two layers one is named Background, and one top of it named Layer 1 which should be highlighted. To give yourself more space to work let’s go back to Window in the top menu bar and select Arrange> Consolidate All into Tabs.

7. Next go to your Layers palette. There just above the highlighted layer you’ll see a box labeled Opacity

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Then Reduce the Opacity of Layer 1 just until you can see the Ring of Fire which is the layer underneath the Highlighted Layer. I reduced mine to 74%.

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8. Once you see the layer underneath go back to your workspace and click on layer 1 photo; Grab the Move tool from the tool box then drag your photo into the place you want it next to the Ring of Fire. I just eye balled this. If you know how to bring up the Guides from the Ruler use them to help you keep the alignment straight.

9. Then slide the Opacity slider back to 100%. Then click the Add Layer Mask button on the bottom of the Layers Palette to add a mask to Layer 1.

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10. The mask should be white. Click on the mask to make sure it’s activated then make sure your foreground color in your tool palette is black.

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11. Select the Brush tool from the Tool palette or click B on your keyboard. Then paint over the area where you know The Ring of Fire is to bring it out.

If you accidentally paint some of the Layer 1 image and it disappears change the foreground color to white and paint over the area to reveal it again.

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Once you have both the Background Layer and Layer 1 the way you want them to look. You’re ready to add the next layer.

12. Layer 1 should still be highlighted in your Layer Palette. Now we’re going to repeat the steps we just used to complete Layer 1. Going back to the top Menu bar click Window>Arrange>Tile from your tiled photos select the next photo you want to add to your composite. Click on the photo Go to Select> All>then when the marching ants are all around the photo click Ctrl+C then go to your Composite Image click on it then click crtl+ v to paste the photo to the image as a new layer named Layer 2.  Then repeat steps 5-12 until all the Layers you want to add are done.

If you want to add images to the right of the Ring of Fire Repeat the steps 1-12 using the additional photos you want to add for the final phases of the Eclipse. I chose to work in batches of 4 photos because it was easier for me to manage them.

Note: You may run out of canvas on one side or the other if you do follow these steps:

From the Menu bar click Image>Canvas Size then in the dialog box that opens

Change the inches to pixels>then leave height alone but double the number in Width and type that number into width box then change the color to Black then click Ok.. If you only want to add more canvas to the right side click the middle box in the left row with the arrow in it that is in the dialog box. You’ll crop the finished image so having extra to work with is alright.

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Elements might be slightly different – much depends on the version of Photoshop you have too. Newer versions have the Add Layer Mask feature, but older versions like Elements 7 and older do not. There are free actions you can install that allow you to add a layer mask if your version of Photoshop Elements doesn’t have a layer mask feature.

As I stated at the beginning there are a lot of ways to do one thing in Photoshop. If you know how to do something differently than I did to achieve the same result and are more comfortable with your known method use that.   May 21, 2012

I hope this tutorial helps you with your layer masking and composite images. Have a great week-end everyone!

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Copyright ©2017 Deborah M. Zajac.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Dude, I'm gonna need a bigger net!

Nikon Df| Nikkor 28-105mm| SanDisk Digital Film| PS CC 2017

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Copyright ©2017 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

I read at Spaceweather.com over the week-end that the latest sunspot AR2665 was HUGE, and the biggest sunspot of 2017 so, not having photographed the Sun for sometime I thought it would be interesting to make an image of this Sunspot on the Sun.  I dug out my solar filter then Monday morning set up my camera in the backyard and waited for the morning sun to climb above the mountain tops.   I cropped this image in 25% so we can see the spot a bit better.

Sun July 10, 2017 with Sunspot AR2665

“Sunspot AR2665 has grown into a behemoth almost as wide as the planet Jupiter: Stretching more than 125,000 km from end to end and containing dozens of dark cores, the active region is an now easy target for backyard solar telescopes. Sunspot AR2665 has a ‘beta-gamma’ magnetic field that harbors energy for M-class solar flares.. “~http://spaceweather.com/

I’ll add you can see it with a Telephoto lens, and Solar filter.  Caveat: Don’t ever attempt to photograph the sun without a Solar Filter. You can permanently damage your eyes, and your camera’s sensor.

M-Class Solar Flares are Medium sized flares. They can cause brief radio blackouts that affect Earth’s polar regions.

I use an Orion 4.10″ ID Full Aperture Solar Filter. It fits snugly over my lens allowing me to look directly at the sun and photograph it by blocking  99.999% of incoming sunlight for safe observation and astrophotography.  I’ve had this filter for several years and it’s worked perfectly, and is easy to use.  It fits my 300mm f/4 perfectly. It slides over my 200-500mm’s 82mm front end element, but not so far that I’m able to secure it with the screws so, to make sure it wouldn’t fall off I taped it to my lens barrel.  Gaffers tape or Painters tape works.

I linked to the filter so you can check it out if you’re interested. I am not affiliated with Orion and do not receive any compensation or products for using their products or mentioning them.  

Nikon Df| Nikkor 200-500mm @500mm| SanDisk Digital Film| PS CC 2017

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Copyright ©2017 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

I stayed close to home this past week-end after having been gone for two week-ends in row. It was nice hanging out with He-Man at home.  Saturday we got in a morning hike, but left later than we should have. By 9am it was already 82°.  We selected a trail that would lead us up to the Redwoods, and Oaks and shade.

We spent the rest of the afternoon indoors with air conditioning.

Saturday evening a good friend and I headed over the hill to Santa Cruz to our traditional Full Moon over the Walton Lighthouse shot.  If you’ve been following me awhile you’ll have seen this lighthouse on my blog before featuring the Moon. I shot the July Moon over this lighthouse last year. Click here.

The weather over the hill was the complete opposite of home. It was still in the 80’s when we left San Jose, but it was in mid 60’s with a breeze on the coast.  I couldn’t get into my hoodie, and wind-breaker fast enough.  I even broke out my gloves!

I set up my rig where I had plotted the Moon to line up over the Lighthouse, but was prepared to move quickly if I needed to adjust my position.  Here’s where we first spotted the Moon rising.  It was faint due to the low marine layer in the air.

Walton Lighthouse and Thunder Moon

We relocated down to the shore and soon the Moon lined up over the Lighthouse.

Copyright © Deborah M. Zajac
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

This is a two frame blended composited image.  The base image had a clear view of the water, and good Moon/lighthouse alignment, but the light wasn’t shining in the Lighthouse so, I blended in the shot right after this one which had the light on. Why not just use that shot you might be asking? Three people walked into the frame obscuring the water.  So, I took the best of both frames blending them together to make the image I wanted to make.

Friday night I went out to the backyard to photograph the Waxing 98.8% Moon.  This is slightly cropped.

July Buck Moon Waxing 98.8%

The July Moon is called Thunder Moon

“Named due to the prevalence of summer thunder storms. It’s sometimes referred to as the Full Buck Moon because at this time of the year, a buck’s antlers are fully grown.”~ https://uk.news.yahoo.com/complete-list-every-full-moon-141136773.html

Since I rarely hear the Thunder but, do see Bucks I think of it more as the Full Buck Moon.

Sunday was a pretty lazy day. I won’t lie. I. Was. A. Slug. 🙂 It was too hot to do much outside although it was cooler by a few degrees.

I hope you had a lovely week-end, and you have a wonderful week!

Nikon Df| Nikkor 200-500mm| SanDisk Digital Film| PS CC 2017

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Copyright ©2017 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what yo

Nikon D810| Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G| Hoodman Digital Film| PS CC 2017

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