Focus Stacking: Increased Depth of Field by Combining Multiple Images


Not Just For Macro Photography!

Humans can see with incredible “depth of field”. Cameras can do a pretty good job—especially if stopped down and when combined with short lenses. Telephoto lenses, on the other hand, often struggle with an extended depth of field. Likewise, macro photography can require numerous steps in micro fractions of an inch increments.

In reality, viewers of photographic images often “forgive” a little out of focus in the immediate foreground if major elements or subjects are sharp. And of course, we can blur or go out of focus in areas on purpose for a creative expression.

Luckily, Lightroom and Photoshop can team up to help us out on special shots. “Focus Stacking” allows a photographer to focus on two or more zones in multiple photos, then merge them into a single image. Best of all, it is relatively easy. Photoshop does all the work! Macro photographers sometimes shoot dozens or even 50 or more images to get one blended composite. If you are into this kind of photography, check out this site: How to Focus-Stack Macro Images using Photoshop.

This page at Best of the Tetons will illustrate how you can add this little trick to your skill set for landscapes. Similar to HDR sets, Focus Stack sets are easy enough to shoot in the field, even if you don’t end up needing the extra frames.

Two Zones

Two Zones: I typically set up and shoot with a tripod for my landscape images. It helps on a project like this one. In a nutshell, I focused on the fence for one shot and on the barn for the next one. To be specific, I set my camera to single point, single servo focusing, then did a quick composition in the viewfinder. I set the focus point on the barn, then temporarily recomposed so that focus point was on the green area of the scene (on the close fence). I pressed my Auto Focus lock button (or hold the shutter button down half way for most people) and recomposed to the original composition. With the AF Lock still pressed, I captured the first image with the sharp fence. I released the AF Lock and pressed the shutter again without moving the camera. For the second shot, the focus point was back on the barn. Click – Click! For some shots, it might be necessary to capture the scene with three or four images. I don’t think it was necessary for this image, but I could have made one more capture on the middle, barbed wire fence line. (Click on the image to see it a little larger)


Stacked: Here’s the stacked image. These images were taken in 2013 with a Nikon D800 and a Nikon 70-200mm lens at 160mm. The aperture was set to F/8. This shot took only an extra minute or two at the time of capture, then roughly 10 minutes in LR and Photoshop. (Click on the image to see it a little larger)

If you are interested in the steps for actually creating the blended image…read on!

Beginning in Lightroom:

Two Images

In Lightroom, I selected the two images (Shift-Select), then did my normal adjustments to one of them. This image also had a bit of cropping to help cut down the size for the web pages.


Synchronize Settings: In the lower right corner of the Develop tab, there’s a button labeled Sync Settings. Once clicked, this box comes up. Click the Check All button and then the Synchronize button. At this point, both images have the same treatments and adjustments applied to them.

Off to Photoshop!

Open as Layers in PS

While still in Lightroom and with both images still selected, click Photo>Edit In>Open as Layers in Photoshop.

Two Layers

In Photoshop, you will see the two images, each on a separate layer.

For this screen grab, I moved the Layers tab to the lower left corner of my screen so I could include the document size info. Each of these two images are 35 megs, creating a 70 meg file (this isn’t a big deal for a two image file, but it can be for someone building a 40 shot macro composite.) In this image, only the top layer is selected. I Shift-Clicked the second layer to select both for the next step.

Auto Align Layers

With both layers highlighted (selected), go to the Edit pull down and click Auto-Align Layers.

Auto Align Second Screen

This box will appear after clicking Auto-Align Layers. The default is Auto. Click OK. The computer will process for a few seconds. This step is usually necessary even if on a tripod.

Auto Blend Layers

Once the Auto-Align Layers step is completed, and with both layers still selected, click Edit> Auto-Blend Layers.

Auto Blend 2nd Screen

This box will appear. Make sure Stack Images is clicked and Seamless Tones and Colors are checked (this is usually set as default) and click OK.

Auto Blend Layers Tab

For my 5000 pixel, two frame image, it took my computer about 30 seconds to process the Auto-Blend step. Photoshop does all the work! It creates the layer masks as seen here. For most projects, all I have to do is flatten and save the image with a new file name.

Try one! While including a bunch of screen grabs might make this appear more complicated than it should, the steps are actually quick and straight forward. You’d only have to do a couple to get the hang of it. I should also mention you don’t really need to start in Lightroom. You can open two images and combine them into a two layer Photoshop document, then run the Auto-Align and Auto-Blend commands. I like the option of syncing the two images in Lightroom.

Focus Stack

Another Example of Focus Stacking: I took this image using a Nikon 200-400mm lens at a long distance from the subjects. Much like the earlier example, I focused on the fence in one image and the barn in the other.

Box L Ranch

Box L Ranch: Results of the two blended layers.


Focus Stack

A few weeks ago, I did a few test shots of objects in the kitchen so I could try out the Focus Stacking feature built into a CamRanger. For this shot, I focused on the closest part of the orange, then set the CamRanger to do a total of 10 shots. It automatically stepped the focus deeper into the scene—without needing to touch the camera again.

Focus Stack Flattened

I initially captured 10 images with the aid of the CamRanger, but for this example, I skipped every other one and let Lightroom and Photoshop build this image with only five of the images. The steps are the same as the barn examples above, but instead of just two layers in Photoshop, I had five. Macro photographers, as seen in the link, deal with much, much more controlled steps than I did here. Here’s the link again: How to Focus-Stack Macro Images using Photoshop. They did 46 shots to capture a single snowflake! For those kinds of shots, you may need the specialty rails and attachments found at Really Right Stuff.


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First Trailer for Reclaiming the Night Documentary

This is the first trailer for my upcoming feature-length documentary, Reclaiming the Night. Though I used the same name for the short film released last year, this will be more in-depth, more story driven, and will include plenty more detail and explanations of the impacts of light pollution.

The first participant featured in this trailer is Peter Lipscomb of Astronomy Adventures in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He’s a dark sky advocate for all of New Mexico and is working with Santa Fe to improve the lighting there. Bill Wren appears next, who is an astronomer at the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas. – Read more

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The National Elk Refuge & Miller Butte:


A Mecca for Winter Wildlife Photography.

Ram in the HeadlightsLocated on the north edge of the Town of Jackson, the National Elk Refuge offers unique wildlife viewing opportunities during the winter months. By almost all standards, visitor access to the refuge is very limited. Of the 24,700 acres, visitors are confined to 10 feet either side of roughly four miles of roadway during the winter. Visitors are asked to park only in designated pullouts, of which there are currently very few. Work on the roadway is scheduled for the summer of 2015, including adding additional pullouts and expanding the sizes of several of the existing pullouts. Along the highway, visitors are told to pull off the highway only in one of the three or four designated pullouts and are told NOT to cross the bike path and approach the fence. I guess I could identify the issues above as the “negatives” at the refuge. It’s a refuge, not a park!

The positives far outweigh the inconveniences of limited parking, limited access, and narrow (sometimes slick) roads. The positives, of course, are the animals you might see there. The short list would include elk, bighorn sheep, pronghorns, and bison for the prey animals. Predators and scavengers would include wolves, coyotes, mountain lions, foxes, and a variety of raptors and birds. You might not expect to see all of the animals in these lists on a single drive-thru, but you “could” see several of them. That’s the beauty! You simply never know what you might find there from hour to hour, day to day, week to week or month to month. I often go back two and three times in a day!

Summer and Winter: Two worlds.

National Elk Refuge

During the summer months, the National Elk Refuge could appear barren of animals. In a nutshell, you will likely travel “through” the Refuge on your way “to” something else. A few additional roads allow access to areas of the National Forest, such as Curtis Canyon and hiking trails to Goodwin Lake, Sheep Mountain, Mount Jackson and so forth. As in the winter, visitors are confined to a few feet either side of the roadways as they pass through the Refuge. Crews plant and irrigate fields on the refuge for forage for wintering elk, bison, and now pronghorns.

Flat Creek on the National Elk Refuge

Fly fishing is allowed in a section along the highway from August 1st to October 31st, but only fishermen with licenses and gear are permitted to be on the refuge. In the late fall, hunting is allowed for elk and bison in some areas. Otherwise, regular tourists cannot mingle off the roadways. Elk and most of the game animals will have moved off the refuge and into their summer ranges, leaving the range mostly uninhabited. Small critters like ground squirrels, voles, gophers, and chipmonks may be taken by Northern Harriers, Red-tailed hawks, Burrowing Owls, American Kestrels, Eagles and so forth.

National Elk Refuge

By late November, snows in the high country start pushing some of the large game animals to the Refuge. I start looking for Bighorn Sheep around Miller Butte on Thanksgiving. Elk start filtering in around the same time, but the big herds typically show up later. Predators and Scavengers follow the prey animals. I’ve seen wolves on the National Elk Refuge, but I’ve never seen them up close. Whether you see them or not, just know they are around! Wolves and other predators follow the prey animals out of the refuge in the Spring. Kills by the wolves, along with natural winter deaths, bring in the smaller scavengers of fur and feather. Mountain Lions have been observed on the Refuge over the years.

Bighorns and the Beginning of Winter

The Chase

Around Thanksgiving, I start cruising the Refuge watching for the first of the Bighorn Sheep. Early snows prod them to move out of the high country and onto the slopes of Miller Butte. By the first week of December, I expect to see reasonable numbers of both ewes and rams. The rut usually begins around the middle of December and continues until the middle of January. This page from Best of the Tetons contains quite a bit more information and lots of photos: Bighorns of Miller Butte. The page has a map showing the roads and pullouts along Miller Butte.


Mass of Elk

Elk migrate from long distances, including Yellowstone, to winter at the National Elk Refuge. I overheard a biologist say there are roughly 5,500 elk on the refuge with additional elk around the edges. You can check the refuge’s official site for more specifics: National Elk Refuge. When driving out onto the Refuge, expect to see mostly cows and calves. The big bulls seldom hang close to the roadways, but you still might see one mixed in. For the best view of wintering elk, consider taking the sleigh ride. Sleigh Ride on the National Elk Refuge: It might be the best deal in town! Bulls can occasionally be seen on the ridge line of Miller Butte. Wolves on the refuge can greatly impact where the elk and other animals are grazing on any particular day.


Bison Herd

Traditionally, the wintering bison hang in the northeast section of the Refuge and are not visible to the winter tourists. Occasionally, a heard will move to the southern section and even south of the road. Wildlife officials may haze them back off the road for the safety of tourists, hikers, bikers, and photographers. They are quick and dangerous! Watch for them in the last mile of the winter road section.


Elk and Pronghorns

During the winter months, Pronghorns traditionally move from the Teton valley to areas south of here—such as Big Piney, Daniel, and Marbleton. Over the past few winters, a small herd began staying in the valley. Now that herd seems to be growing in size. I counted over 45 recently along the roadway near Miller Butte. They also appear to be becoming more tolerant of the passing vehicles, hikers, and bikers.

Mule Deer

Hillside Mule Deer

Hillside Mule Deer: I’ve seen a few mule deer actually inside the fence in the National Elk Refuge, but most are along the road and hillside West of the highway. Other than some of the commercial businesses along the road, the National Elk Refuge owns much of the land. Deer and Elk can be seen grazing along either side of the road early in the mornings and on the hillside after first light. You may also see some of them by making the drive up to the National Museum of Wildlife Art.



Recently, the newspaper reported two packs of wolves roaming the National Elk Refuge and making kills. I’ve seen them on the hillsides before and was able to hear them howl, but I’ve never been there as they chase game into close proximity to the roads. Maybe I will be in the right spot at the right time and capture some of it.



Coyotes are more common on the National Elk Refuge. Most stay off the roads and scavenge on winter kills or feed on the leftovers from a wolf kill.


Red Fox

Red Foxes aren’t that common on the Refuge, but I’ve seen them several times just south of the Miller House.


River Otter

River Otters occasionally cruise Flat Creek in search of small fish. I’ve photographed them on numerous occasions from the observation platform just north of the visitor’s center.



Trumpeter Swans and an occasional Tundra Swan can often be seen along Flat Creek. Check out this Feature Post: Trumpeter Swans: A Family of Swans Along Flat Creek in the Summer of 2014. During the winter, much of Flat Creek can freeze over for short periods, but the Swans and other waterfowl quickly return when sections of the waterway open up again. Flat Creek runs through much of the National Elk Refuge.


Golden Eagle

Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles can be seen on the National Elk Refuge at any time of the year, but are more plentiful during the winter months. Winter kills bring in the scavengers of all kinds. Watch for Ravens swarming, then look for nearby eagles, foxes, coyotes and magpies. During the winter months, watch for Rough-legged hawks hovering around the valley floor. In the summer, watch for Red-tailed Hawks and Northern Harriers. I’ve seen photos of Burrowing Owls taken on the Refuge.

Scenic Opportunities

Miller House with Fog Bank

The Historic old Miller House sits in the middle of the National Elk Refuge. It always makes a good subject for photography. The house and areas immediately surrounding it are closed to human activity during the winter months.

National Elk Refuge

Sleeping Indian (AKA Sheep Mountain) rests on the far east side of the valley. Check out this earlier Feature Post for more locations: Sleeping Indian: A Lesser Photographed JH Icon

Scenic Comments: I typically don’t go to the National Elk Refuge “thinking landscapes”. Wildlife is usually higher on my priorities. If the light is hitting the Miller House or Sleeping Indian in a special way, I will always stop to photograph it. Access is limited, as I mentioned earlier, so we must shoot only from the roadways. A couple of distracting power lines run through the refuge and the angles are just not designed for photographers, especially while on the Refuge Road. From the highway, many more possibilities are available to viewers and photographers. On the North side, the National Elk Refuge and Grand Teton National Park are separated by the Gros Ventre River. Visitors can roam the north side of the river, but cannot cross the river to the Refuge side.

Curtis Canyon

On May 1st, the roads into the interior of the Refuge open back up, allowing people to cross into the National Forests. On that morning, the road is packed with antler hunters heading into the wilds outside the refuge. Additional photographic opportunities can be found by driving up the Curtis Canyon Road.

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An Upcoming Year of Wishes


Many people make a New Year’s Resolution. I’ve never been too driven to make them—much less keep them.

This page is dedicated to subjects maybe a bit off the beaten path—most of which are in the state of Wyoming.  Along with the standard area wildlife and landscapes, these are subjects I’d like to pursue more this year. Maybe you will also find some of these subjects of interest on your Wyoming visit. I included lots of links to help you with additional information.


Petroglyphs: There are several areas of the state with petroglyphs. This one was taken near the Boar’s Tusk in SW Wyoming called the White Mountain Petroglyphs. Castle Gardens are near Riverton and in the Wind River Mountains check out the petroglyphs at Dinwoody and Torrey basins near Dubois. Legend Rock State Petroglyph Site is located just outside Thermopolis. If you are heading into Wyoming from Utah or Nevada, do some searches online. Other states have even more. I’d like to try “light painting” some of the petroglyphs if I am ever there at the right time. Colored gels in conjunction with the lights might be even better. The closest petroglyphs are in the Torrey Basin near Dubois.

ShoBan Pow-Wow

Native American Pow-Wows: There are many Pow-Wows held all over the state during the summer months. I always have a great time there.

Ft Bridger

Mountain Man Rendezvous: This page contains information on many of the regional rendezvous. The biggest one is at Fort Bridger over Labor Day. Most of the people at these events are quite “colorful” and are usually more than willing to have their photos taken. I definitely need to go to more of them in 2015!

Eagle Days

Eagle Days: Farmington Bay, UT. Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area |Bald eagle viewing at Utah’s the Farmington Bay Waterfowl. For several years, my youngest son competed in ski competitions in Utah in February, so I happened to be in the area. I usually only had one day to spend there, and it was hit and miss from year to year. When it’s good, it can be really good! This area is reported to have the largest wintering population of eagles in the lower 48. Each year, the rangers poison the “trash fish” with a natural compound that suffocates them. The carp, perch, and sunfish float to the surface and become a feast for the waiting eagles. In February, the town of Farmington, UT hosts Eagle Days at the refuge, but that’s NOT the day to go! It is too busy and you are forced to ride in on a bus. The biologists poison some of the bays a few days before the event and fish are still floating by until the end of February when the roads close.


Rodeo: In Jackson, there’s a rodeo every Wednesday and Saturday throughout the summer at the Fairgrounds on Snow King Drive. Cody has a big rodeo nightly and there are a couple of rodeo grounds in and around West Yellowstone. I’d really like to go to more of them this year! Crews tore down the old chutes and announcer’s crow’s nest and are in the process of rebuilding them. The rodeo grounds will have a new face on the north side this year!


Cowboys and Wranglers: These kind of shots take a little pre-planning and work, but I really need and want to do more this year. I didn’t take many of the at all in 2014. If you have a family and want a wonderful week at a Dude Ranch, check out Triangle X Dude Ranch,  Lost Creek Guest RanchMoose Head Guest Ranch, & Red Rock Ranch Dude Ranch. All are top notch! Some of the area ranches have calf roundups and brandings. I haven’t been to one in a while and it’d be fun to go again. I’d also love to be around the ranches near Kelly when the ranchers move the longhorns from pasture to pasture.

Wild Mustangs

Wild Mustangs: These are one of my favorite subjects, but I only managed to photograph them one time in 2014. That’s definitely not enough! Wyoming has 16 Horse Management Areas plus its half of the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center near, Lovell, Wyoming. Wyoming doesn’t have burros.  Wild Horse and Burro Quick Facts. There’s a lot of information in the provided links. I’d like to go to a few more of the state’s HMA’s. The closest two are in Rock Springs and Cody. May and June are usually the best two months. Mares often give birth at this time, prompting fights between stallions. Every few years, the BLM conducts a “gather” to reduce the population at each HMA to a required number, but the BLM is secretive about when a gather will occur. Wild Mustang Gather: Rock Springs, WY

Ghost Towns

Ghost Towns: There are quite a few old ghost towns and forts in Wyoming. The link has quite a few of them. The Lincoln Highway was the first transcontinental highway for automobiles across the United States of America. It runs more or less parallel with US Highway 80 across the southern portion of Wyoming. I’d like to check out more of the abandoned buildings, stations, and signs along it. The photo above was at Superior, WY. Along the route, I’d also be on the lookout for abandoned vehicles rusting away in the sagebrush. Someday, I’d love to follow the road on across Utah and Nevada and into Lincoln Park in San Francisco.


Yellowstone: For a variety of reasons, including the cost of gasoline, I haven’t spent much time in Yellowstone over the past few years. I’d like to make a few trips this year. I still love the Tetons, but Yellowstone has some different looks and subjects. This place is definitely ON the beaten path, but I just haven’t been there much lately.


Fishing: Whether they are self portraits or shots of other people fishing, I’d love to build a collection of fly fishing images at all of the valley’s spectacular locations. A few fly fishing shots in Yellowstone with steam and fog would also be high on my wish list. Remote Triggering: CamRanger and RFN-4s


Barns: There are quite a few old barns and structures in Jackson Hole. I’ve photographed a lot of them. Sometimes it takes me a long time to gain access to the property. Some are easily visible from the roadways. I like to find them, then keep going back until the light has a romantic glow.

…and More: This group came to mind as I built this post tonight. They are in no particular order.

I am sure there are lots of other opportunities and lots of events worth covering and if I think of a few, I’ll add them here. MJ

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Orion Firing Comet Lovejoy

Orion and Comet Lovejoy

While Comet Lovejoy, C/2014 Q2 has already peaked in brightness, Jackson Hole has only just gotten one of the only clear nights of the season so far. I took this opportunity to capture the comet before it leaves our skies.

With the comet higher in the sky, I couldn’t help but notice its position relative to the constellation Orion and how he appeared to be firing the comet out into the night sky from his bow. Of course it’s more accepted that rather than a bow, he’s actually holding a shield, but given the circumstances I prefer to think of the comet as a fiery arrow he just show from his bow. I expanded the view on my camera and began capturing this scene.

Orion is one of the most well-known constellations in the North American night sky, and for good reason. It’s a grouping of many bright stars that are easily recognizable even from major cities. It’s also home to some of the most awe-inspiring and dramatic nebulae in the night sky, constantly targeted by both professional and amateur astronomers alike.

Easily visible in this photo is the Orion Nebula, found along his sword hanging from his belt. This is perhaps one of the most well-known nebulae in North America for its easy visibility under dark skies and dramatic views under telescopes. Less apparent is IC 434 above the Orion Nebula, or more commonly known as the Horsehead Nebula. It’s found just below Alnitak, the left-most star in Orion’s Belt. Since this image is so zoomed out, making out the horsehead in this photo is a bit tricky. Just on the other side of Alnitak is NGC 2024, aka the Flame Nebula, another object that’s tricky to perceive this zoomed out, but be sure I’ll be zooming in on both in the near future.

Less commonly known is Sharpless 276, or Barnard’s Loop. This is the red loop that circles from Rigel, the bright star on the bottom-right of Orion, all the way up to between Betelgeuse and Alnitak. Using a modified Canon Rebel to pick up higher concentrations of Hydrogen-Alpha particles, this loop comes out much more vividly than it would on a standard DSLR camera.

All the way on the left side of the photo is NGC 2237, the Rosette Nebula. Though it is very close to Orion, it’s actually considered to be part of the lesser-known constellation, Monoceros, greek for unicorn and next-door neighbor to Orion, among others.

Of course, all the way on the right is the other main subject of the photo, Comet Lovejoy, C/2014 Q2. This was discovered during August of 2014 and surprised everyone by glowing much brighter than it was ever expected to and became a welcome, but temporary, addition to the night sky while ringing in the new year.

With all this activity just in this photo, it’s no wonder astronomers look forward to winter! Clearer air and more vivid nights help too.

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Getting away from iPhoto

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 5.00.49 PMIf you own a Mac and have ever downloaded pictures to your computer, you’ve been prompted to add images to iPhoto. This is a very handy program for you to organize, edit, and share your photographs.

The program is built in, it’s free, and it’s quite powerful for the cost. Many people use the software and been quite happy with it.

However, if you photograph a great deal, are serious about your shooting, and really need to upgrade your images, the only major software on the market now is Lightroom. It has far more capability than iPhoto, being able to manage images with  keywords, collections, heavy editing, and seamless integration with Photoshop.

iPhoto to Lightroom

What happens when you have overwhelmed the abilities of iPhoto and you want to expand your repertoire, go pro, or whatever else you might like to do with your images? How do you get these images out of iPhoto and into Lightroom easily? Unfortunately there’s no easy answer. There are software packages out there to do the conversion but there’s nothing that’s truly dominating the market.

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 5.10.40 PMYou are most likely going to need to convert manually. Before you break out in a cold sweat, don’t worry, it’s not a terribly complex deal, just a bit laborious. However, once you make the switch to using Finder to organize your photos on the Mac then use Lightroom to edit the ones you want to work on, you’ll be set.

Mac, iPhoto and Lightroom tutoring

I spent the afternoon with a private lesson student working on exactly this process. There were over a hundred events in iPhoto to convert. At first it seemed overwhelming, but once I shared the tricks and procedure of how to make the conversion and organize the files, the student saw it really wasn’t a complex process. Just a bit laborious. Once the folders are set up in Finder and the files are exported as originals out of iPhoto, it will be much easier to manage, view, and share these images.

If you’d like help with this process, contact me and I can arrange a lesson show you how to make the daunting task manageable.

The post Getting away from iPhoto appeared first on Aaron Linsdau.

Getting away from iPhoto

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 5.00.49 PMIf you own a Mac and have ever downloaded pictures to your computer, you’ve been prompted to add images to iPhoto. This is a very handy program for you to organize, edit, and share your photographs.

The program is built in, it’s free, and it’s quite powerful for the cost. Many people use the software and been quite happy with it.

However, if you photograph a great deal, are serious about your shooting, and really need to upgrade your images, the only major software on the market now is Lightroom. It has far more capability than iPhoto, being able to manage images with  keywords, collections, heavy editing, and seamless integration with Photoshop.

iPhoto to Lightroom

What happens when you have overwhelmed the abilities of iPhoto and you want to expand your repertoire, go pro, or whatever else you might like to do with your images? How do you get these images out of iPhoto and into Lightroom easily? Unfortunately there’s no easy answer. There are software packages out there to do the conversion but there’s nothing that’s truly dominating the market.

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 5.10.40 PMYou are most likely going to need to convert manually. Before you break out in a cold sweat, don’t worry, it’s not a terribly complex deal, just a bit laborious. However, once you make the switch to using Finder to organize your photos on the Mac then use Lightroom to edit the ones you want to work on, you’ll be set.

Mac, iPhoto and Lightroom tutoring

I spent the afternoon with a private lesson student working on exactly this process. There were over a hundred events in iPhoto to convert. At first it seemed overwhelming, but once I shared the tricks and procedure of how to make the conversion and organize the files, the student saw it really wasn’t a complex process. Just a bit laborious. Once the folders are set up in Finder and the files are exported as originals out of iPhoto, it will be much easier to manage, view, and share these images.

If you’d like help with this process, contact me and I can arrange a lesson show you how to make the daunting task manageable.

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Problem Solving “On-the-Fly” or With a Plan:


A Few Real World Examples, Tips, and Solutions.

Snow Bound Sedan

I posted this photo in my January 3rd entry of the January 2015 Daily Updates and Photos page.  It is artsy (textured) image of an old rusty automobile along High School Road here in Jackson. I’ve lived here 28 years and never stopped to take a photo of it. During the summer, the old car is somewhat lost in the high grass. During the winter, the deep snow simplifies the composition and isolates the dark object. Evening light adds interest and texture to the snow. The problem is the tall fence between the road and the vehicle. The other side is private property. The land owner grazes cattle in the field, so getting permission to be on the property would probably be tough. Some shots offer “challenges” needing solutions!

On this page, I will go through a few of the possible solutions.

You’ll likely run into a similar situation at some point!

Winter Fence

I spend a fair amount of my time and attention looking for something interesting to photograph. I call it “reconnaissance mode”. I was heading home from taking photos of the Swans at Boyle’s Hill and saw this snow covered old rusting vehicle. As I mentioned earlier, I had seen it hundreds of other times. I pulled over and parked next to the fence, then surveyed the situation and decided it was something worth photographing. I went back to the vehicle and pulled out a camera. It turned out to be quite a challenge! The top of the posts and barbed wire is roughly six feet from the ground. The wire mesh at the bottom is too tight to get a camera through and the angle is wrong to simply shoot from under the barbed wire.

1st Option: Get What You Can On the Fly

This subject happens to be only a couple of miles from my house. I know I can go back over and over until I get the shot I want. There are subjects that are only available one time, like some of the subjects on my Maui trip. If this was my one and only opportunity, here are a few options I might have tried:

  • Shoot from just over the mesh wire, but open the aperture all the way to attempt to blur out distant distractions. Some of them might need to be removed in post production.
  • I knew I couldn’t look through the viewfinder if the camera is well above my head, so I used LiveView to help compose the scene. I focused first, then put it in Manual focus mode, so I knew I would only be relying on LiveView for composition. I rested the camera on the top of one of the posts with VR turned on. This actually worked fairly well, but I really needed to get the camera higher. For anyone not familiar with LiveView, you just flip a lever to LV on the back of the camera body. Instead of viewing the scene through the normal viewfinder, the image is displayed on the back of the camera’s LCD—much like an inexpensive point-and-shoot camera. LiveView is not a great option if the sun is directly behind you and washing out the LCD image.
  • Spray and PrayA similar option would be to use my 35 megapixel D800 body and shoot “wide” or “loose”. I call it “spray and pray”.  I pre-focus, change to manual focus, then simply hold the camera as high as I could and as still as I could and “point in the general direction” for a few dozen shots. I’d hope one of them was good enough to crop and process. It’s actually harder to do than you might think, but at least you have a chance!

One of the above options should have given me a useable photo.

2nd Option: Plan It Out. Gear Up and Go Back!

Tripod and Ladder

The first time I took any photos of that vehicle was during unappealing mid-day light. I knew at the time the shots I took were not going to be the ones I would eventually want. Again, I was in reconnaissance mode. Those first images gave me something to think about and let me develop a series of options. My original “on the fly” solution was to use LiveView. Good call! It worked out well. By my second trip, I had considered a few more options.

  • CamRanger: The CamRanger was an option worth considering. I could get the camera well above my head, either on a bean bag on a post or on the top of my extended tripod, then compose and focus via the screen on my iPhone or Android pad. I chose to photograph the image with a D800 and a 200-400mm lens. A 70-200 might have worked well enough, too, but I felt I wanted to zoom in fairly tight on some shots. The CamRanger could have done the job, but I would have needed to zoom around, view and focus at the pad. If you go to their web site, you can see other options, including adding a motorized unit to tilt and pan when on top of an extended post.
  • My Solution: A few years ago, I purchased a heavy duty, carbon fiber Manfrotto tripod capable of extending out to roughly 7′. I have a smaller, lighter Gitzo carbon fiber tripod I use most of the time. The big one can get heavy especially when I use the Manfrotto 504 Video Head on it, so I have it ready for specific kinds of shooting and for oddball needs like this one. When the legs are extended and the head is attached, the camera’s viewfinder is a good 7′ off the ground. I recently purchased a 4′ fiberglass stepladder to use for just such occasions. The ladder lets me have full access to the viewfinder, focus and zoom features on the camera. This stuff fits easily in the van. I waited until late in the evening and prepared to get the shot.
  • Alternative Solution: Back at home, I have an 8′ and 10′ fiberglass stepladder. These also work to help me get higher. My lighter Gitzo tripod can straddle the top of the ladder and I can climb to a comfortable step on the ladder. Normally, when I know I need either of these two ladders, I strap them to the ladder rack on my truck and I take it to the shoot. In other words, I don’t have them with me on most days, while it is fairly easy to keep the taller tripod and small stepladder in the van.
  • “Cost Is No Factor” Solutions: I already have a tall tripod and the 4′ stepladder was relatively inexpensive. If the shot merited the expense,  someone could rent scaffolding, a GradAll or cherry picker. There are also “booms arms” to get cameras into unique positions.

Evening Vehicle

I don’t know if this is an award winning image or not? Was it worth all the effort? Probably…even if only for the mental exercises it took to get the shot. I’m also working on a Feature Post called something like: Good Light / Bad Light (Aka…It’s All About that Light…’Bout that Light). I have been collecting shots showing how important the good light is to a shot. A few minutes after the image above, the sun dropped below the mountains and the scene dulled dramatically.   It has also occurred to me to go back some late evening and “light paint” it. I’ve solved most of the rest of the issues, so adding some artificial light wouldn’t be too difficult.

Oxbow Crowd

I’ve also considered taking the little stepladder and this tripod to Oxbow Bend during the peak foliage period. There would be an elbow to elbow row of photographers guarding their spots they had been holding since around 4:30am. I thought it might be fun to set it up right behind them and shoot over their heads, but of course, I could sleep an extra hour or two. I wouldn’t need to get there until a couple of minutes before the best light. Maybe next fall! I’ve used this tripod and even the longer stepladders at Cunningham Cabin. It allows me to get a little higher to eliminate an issue caused by the roof line hitting a distant horizon line.

A while back, I created this post: Get Down—and sometimes dirty!  The idea is to change from the normal “pedestrian” view (about 5 feet off the ground) to a vantage point just above the ground. In this case, I’d be changing the vantage point to above what most people are used to seeing.

CamRanger in Action

This image is on CamRanger’s site: Wireless Control With the CamRanger PT Hub, MP-360, and Pole

Note: I didn’t take this shot! It shows how changing the vantage point can be memorable and dramatic. Somewhere out in the pool is a drowned hoover craft someone used for a similar shot. After losing control of it, he now has some big fines to pay. As far as I know, extended poles are currently not illegal in the parks for normal still photography.

Chevy Truck

Chevy Truck: This is an old dump truck well off the road on private land taken in November of 2012. I took this shot with the camera very close to the ground to hide some irrigation ditches and clutter. There are a couple of textures applied over the top of the original JPG image.


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Here Today, Gone to Maui!


A Jackson Hole resident magically morphs into a Maui tourist.


I had to put the “shoe on the other foot” and become a tourist for about 10 days. I’m not used to it! When heading out in the mornings in Jackson Hole, I usually live up to my old Eagle Scout motto: “Be Prepared”! I take everything I think I might need—and sometimes two of everything. Here in the Tetons, I get the luxury of going to a spot over and over until the light and the clouds cooperate. I have all year. Tourists come and go here like the waves on the beach there. I get to pick the best times of the day and the best times of the year. Like I said, it’s a luxury.


I have enough camera gear to fill a van. When I packed my gear to go to Maui, I probably had to make similar decisions people have to make if they get on a plane to fly to Jackson Hole and Yellowstone. Some people coming here have their prime lenses shipped to a trusted friend in the valley. I didn’t have that option, however. In reality, packing was probably easier for me because I was only going there for “vacation” time and vacation photos. I doubt I’ll ever sell one, nor use the images for anything much more than a blog post. Some people coming to the northwest corner of Wyoming probably need and want the very best images they can capture, so they need their pro gear.

Fiery Sunset

The day before we headed out, I grabbed my small camera bag. Naturally, I have two, but I didn’t think the bigger one would fit in the overhead compartment. There was no way I wanted to check the photo gear. By the time I zipped it up, the poor thing was stuffed. It did fit in the overhead compartment—and it made the trip with no problems!


I would have loved to have taken the 200-400mm lens and the 70-200 mm lens, not to mention the regular 24-70 mm workhorse lens and my wide angle 14-24mm lens. I would have loved to have taken my Gitzo tripod, ball head, and Wimberley Sidekick. I chose to take my Nikon D4 body and the all around Nikon 28-300 mm zoom lens. It’s not quite as sharp as my other pro lenses, but it’s lightweight and does a very good job. The tripod was another issue. Before I left for Hawaii, I took my Arca-Swiss ball head off my tripod and found a corner for it in the bag…just in case.

Fiery Sunset

My wife, Darla, and I went light. I had one small suitcase and one camera bag. She had a handbag and purse to carry on the plane and one mid-sized suitcase. Our friends met us at the airport and saw our “load” and said, “That’s it?” Of course, they had three or four big bags each, some of which contained computers, snorkel gear, and other “essentials” for a trip to Maui.

Palm Trees

So, I went to Maui without a tripod. Oh, that hurts to think about it—especially knowing I hardly ever take a shot without one! I got up before sunrise the first morning and took photos hand held, then knew I’d be buying “some kind of tripod”. That turned out to be a good call, and I know I’ll use it some other day. Now, I have three tripods instead of just one and a backup.

Hana Sunrise

The tripod I purchased came with a lightweight ball head. I pulled my Arca-Swiss Z1 ball head out of the bag and replaced the small one. The D4 seemed to be happier on the heavier ball head. I used the tripod for my morning and evening landscapes, long exposures on the waterfalls, a few remote controlled family shots, and several night images.

Giant Sea Turtle

Maui doesn’t have a lot of wildlife—above water anyway. But then, it does have killer sunrises and sunsets. Stunning, in fact! If I could have squeezed it in, I would have loved to taken my 35 megapixel D800 body and my pro model 24-70mm lens for the morning and evening shots. And, there were a few times, I longed for the reach of 400mm on my 200-400mm zoom lens. Those occasions would have probably been limited to the shooting at the ocean of the surfers and later with some of the birds. The 28-300mm VR lens worked fine, however, and it focuses amazingly close!

Night Bonfire

This was my first trip to Hawaii. I suspect I went through much of the same experiences people have when they come to Jackson Hole for the first time. If you do your homework by going through some of the pages on this blog, you’d be far ahead of the others that don’t! Let’s say I went to Maui in the latter shoes. I didn’t have a clue about any of it—other than I knew there’s an ocean, sand, waves, and some lush forests. I picked up some of the many travel brochures and trip guides and studied them…just like people do here. I certainly felt like a tourist, made worse by my snow white legs and chest when on the beach. Oh well.

Night in the Bay

I was out before daylight on most mornings after scouting out locations during the afternoon hours the day before. Darla and the rest of the group were just waking up and finishing their coffee when I’d drag in from the early morning shooting.

Underwater Sea Turtle

Above the water, I can’t say too many things were that different as they relate to photography.  Underwater photography…well that’s a different proposition entirely! A friend let me use an underwater camera for one of the dives. It wasn’t easy for me because I was having to learn to breath through a snorkel and take photos with a foreign camera at the same time.


Just like visitors to the Tetons on a four or five day trip, I had to accept the conditions of the morning, day or evening. It seems the mornings and evenings are usually spectacular there, especially knowing you can look another direction if it isn’t great in the other one. Still, if it was raining when we went to a specific waterfall, that’s just the way it was going to be. There was usually no going back for another chance. Sometimes, people come here for four or five days and never see the Teton Range. I suspect some people never see the top of the Haleakala Crater either.


Before it was all over, we made the drive around the entire island and we spent a lot of time along the ocean. We got to snorkel in two places. We saw the giant sea turtles, both on the beach and under water. We saw surfers, boarders, wind surfers, and kite sailors.

Poinsettia and Bee

We spent money like tourists, had a great time at the Halloween event, and ate some wonderful food. I had at least a hint of a tan when I made it off the plane.


I saw things in Maui I’ve never see here. It was a feast for the eyes! But then, someone from Hawaii might be equally impressed by our wildlife and snow.

Textured Leaf

Just about anywhere you turn, there’s some sort of potential subject! My D4 ended up with around 6000 actuations added to it, virtually filling every CF card I took with me.

Sunset in Maui

I hope to get to go back someday!


After returning home, Darla wanted me to make a book to document our vacation. I spent a few days creating it and then published it through Blurb. If you’d like to view the book, click the thumbnail cover image and flip through the pages. (Hit the four way arrow in the lower right corner to make it fill your entire screen and then hit the ESC button to go back to regular view)  There are a lot more images in the book!

If you are planning a trip to Jackson Hole, bring as much of your gear as you can! It’s a great place for landscapes, nightscapes, wildlife, and close-up photography—and that’s not counting all of the possibilities for outdoor sports and activities! I’d suggest bringing lots of memory cards and a tripod! Of course, spend some time going through the posts at Best of the Tetons for a huge head start. If you’d like to go with me on a one-on-one photo excursion here in the Tetons, click the link for more info! No matter how you get here and how much gear you bring, I hope you have an equally rewarding experience.

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