botanical garden browsing by tag


Roots & Leaves

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

I noticed this scene recently in San Diego’s Balboa Park.  (I think) these are roots and leaves Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla); although there are larger trees like this in the park, this one was rather small.  The roots can become so large on this species that people can sit on them, or walk around in them.

Here, I liked the way the roots seemed to be creeping across the frame.  My wife said this image reminds her of autumn.

fig roots and leaves in balboa park, san diego

Underfoot, August 2010

What does this image make you think of?

Blending exposures for greater depth of field

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

I recently blogged about my winter project of shooting agaves locally.  In prepping for this shoot, I wanted to make sure the entire plant was in focus, and I knew using my depth of field table, that it was essentially impossible using my 24-105/4 lens:

  • The example I’ll use in this post was shot from a distance of ~2 feet at a focal length of 47mm and aperture of f/10; using my Canon 30D, my total depth of field is 0.2 feet.  That isn’t nearly enough to get the entire agave in focus.

To circumvent this problem, I wanted to take multiple exposures at different planes of focus then blend them in Photoshop to produce an image that is entirely in focus.  The problem I was having is that by doing it manually, I couldn’t find a self-feathering method to make the blend look “clean”.  Fortunately Photoshop CS4 has an image blending feature that mostly automates the process for you.  I’ll describe my experience using one of my agaves as an example.

The first step was to take the shots.  I composed the shot like I normally would, and took one or two tests to make sure the amount of fill flash looked about right.  To get the proper diffusion, I taped a piece of white printer paper to my 430EX and underexposed by ~ -1.5 stops EV.  After the shot looked “right”, I took three exposures, each one at a different plane of focus:

While these three images do not look much different, you can see subtle differences; by looking at the main floret protuding from the plant, you can see that it is increasingly out of focus as you scroll through the images.

Once I got home, I converted the RAW files in a way that looked good to my eye; when you are working with multiple exposures, make sure to ‘synchronize’ all of your adjustments so all your shots look the same!  This is easy to do in ACR.  Then, I opened the files in Photoshop CS4.  The first step is to load the files into a stack and align them.  You can do this by going to File–>Scripts–>Load Files into Stack

Select the option “Add Open Files”, and check the box that says, “Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images”.  This will load your base images into the script, and will align the images, because even if you shot from a tripod (using mirror lock-up) there will be some slight differences between the images.

Once the script runs, you will want to select all three layers on the layers palette and go to Edit–>Auto-Blend Layers…

Select the option to stack the images and make sure the “Seamless Tones and Colors” box is checked.  This will produce a perfectly feathered and mostly blended image using your base images.  At this point, I suggest you inspect the image at 100% to make sure it is indeed perfectly blended.  On some images, the script has done a great job, and on others I’ve had to reload some images as separate layers and mask off the “in focus” part.

Even if it doesn’t work perfectly, this method will get you most of the way there.  If you like the result, you can flatten the image and edit as you normally would.

Agave attenuata, blended and converted to black and white

Agave attenuata, blended and converted to black and white

There are times you may not necessarily need to use this method; for instance, sometimes simply stopping down to f/16 or f/22 may get you the depth of field you need, but remember, as you stop down, you are losing resolution.  Thus, shooting at a wider aperture and blending exposures can be beneficial if you plan on printing the image.

Photo of the Month–April

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

A few posts ago, I threatened to share more of my agave images from my winter project.  Here it is half a month later and I haven’t had a chance to post more (I gotta shake this day job!), so I decided to share another agave, Agave attenuata, for my April photo of the month.

Black and white image of an agave

Agave attenuata, January 2010

This image was processed similarly to the ones I shared previously.  In this one, I like the way the edges of the leaves are almost highlighted from the backlit conditions; a small amount of fill flash with a diffuser filled in the shadows.

Hope you’re enjoying spring!

Winter personal project: Agave

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Over the past couple of years, I’ve taken some of what I consider to be “personal projects”.  The assignments I give myself aren’t difficult; they may have been to focus on a particular area to show it in a unique way, or to learn new techniques, or to push myself out of my box a little bit.  Many of the projects are ongoing, but I find they are a great way for me to inspire my own creativity.  So it was with my winter project; I wanted to take on a project that pushed me outside of my box.

As a group, one of my favorite plants are Agave.  They have beautifully symmetric, radiating leaves.  Their lines are smooth, easy, even sensuous, and their colors are–to me–calming.  They come in many shapes and sizes.  And, of course, they are the source of tequila (doesn’t a margarita sound good right now?).

Despite my admiration for these plants, until this winter I had only given a half-hearted attempt to photograph them.  Because we were lucky to have many overcast days this winter with soft, diffuse light, I decided to take on the project of creating a set of intimate portraits of Agave.  To make the set more “uniform” I chose to convert each image to monochrome, and although you’ll see uniformity may be left up to the viewer, I did stick with that as my theme.

intimate black and white portrait of an agave attenuata

Agave attenuata, January 2010

In addition to getting to know a new group of plants, I was able to learn about black and white conversions, as well as receive some lessons in extending my depth of field.  To achieve the highest resolution, I wanted to stay at an aperture of about f/8, but shooting this close with my 24-105/4, there was no way the entire plant would be in focus.  What I did was take multiple frames of each image, each one at a different plane of focus.  I then used the auto-align and auto-merge features in Photoshop CS4 to produce a single image with extended depth of field; I hope to write  blog post on this procedure in the future.

wide angle portrait of an agave; uc riverside botanical garden

Wide angle, February 2010

I’ll share one or more of my Agave shots in the next few days; if you simply cannot wait, you can see them all (so far) here.  Its good to remember that by taking on a personal project, you can often find inspiration very near to (if not in) your own backyard.  Have you taken on a personal project?  Share it in the comments section!


Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

After going through my images this morning looking for a “green” photo, its clear I need to plan a trip to Ireland.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from Alpenglow Images!

Bamboo at the Huntington Garden, California

New page added

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

I’ve added a new page to the site, one documenting travel and culture, rather than strictly widlife or landscapes.  As of right now, the page includes images from the Huntington Library and Botanic Garden near Pasadena, California, as well as images from the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California.  Other pages and images will be uploaded soon, I hope!

Hope you enjoy them!

Leafy Sea Dragon, Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, CA, October 2009

Another shot from The Huntington

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

In addition to the captivating structures I wrote about earlier, The Huntington Library and Garden near Pasadena, CA is a very well kept botanic garden.  Many of the plants are exotic ornamentals, with collections from Mexico, South America and South Africa, among many others.  One of my favorite gardens is the Desert Garden, because of the bright cactus blooms, and the sensuous lines of the the agave.   Here’s another shot of an agave from The Huntington:

Agave, San Marino, CA, April 2009

The Huntington

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Amazingly beautiful and simple subjects often pop out at you when you least expect it.  My wife had been to The Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens near Pasadena with a friend, and the next weekend, we took a Sunday afternoon outing over there.  Not only do they have some amazing texts in their collection–including a first edition of “On the Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin and hand-written correspondence by Albert Einstein–but a diverse and beautiful botanic garden as well.

I recently shared some of my bamboo images from the garden, but here are a couple of photos of a Japanese Tea Room in another section of the grounds.  I was particularly drawn to the clean geometric lines of these rooms.

japanese3Japanese Tea Room I, The Huntington, San Marino, CA, April 2009

japanese1Japanese Tea Room II, The Huntington, San Marino, CA, April 2009