Photo Merge using Photoshop Elements 6

We rode the tandem up Mt. Hamilton last week. It was a Friday so there were not very many cars on the road. We wanted to get a picture at the top but there was no one around to take it so we took turns taking each other’s picture standing behind the tandem with the Lick Observatory in the background. I then merged the two photos into one using Adobe Photoshop Elements 6. I usually use Photoshop CS3, but wanted to try the photo merge feature of Photoshop Elements. They program offers three different types of photo merge so I picked the “Group Shot” one. Unlike prior photo merge options that just put one picture next to the other, you can use a “pencil” to draw around one portion of a photo and have it merged into the other one. I just drew around one person, including the shadow.

This approach allows the sky to be entirely from one picture so as to not show a line where there might be a difference in exposure. Here is the final picture. Can you see any evidence of it being a merged group shot?

Nikon D300 Digital SLR Camera

I just ordered a new Nikon D300 Digital SLR with a 18-200 VR lens. The question might be why did I purchase since I already have a Nikon D70 Digital SLR. This new camera is highly rated and I can use my extensive collection of Nikon lenses that I had bought back in the days of film. My D70 would use those lenses but without any metering. Nikon had a promotion of $300 off if you bought this camera body with the 18-200 VR lens. VR stands for Vibration Reduction, allowing up to two more stops than you could normally shot. Since this is the DX format sensor, 200 mm is equivalent to a 300 mm lens on a 35 mm camera so having VR is important.

The new camera has a lot of improvements and has been highly rated in many of the reviews I have read, including the recent Mac World magazine, where it was given an editor’s pick.  It was also the Popular Photography & Imaging, Camera of the Year 2007

Here are some additional reviews at DP Review:

I had intended to order it from Costco which had a reduced price in addition to the $300 off but their shipping period was 10-15 business days and I needed it before that. I ended up buying at where I have purchased other items. The camera is sold out at many online stores but they had 3 left so I went ahead and ordered this morning.

I feel in the Nikon digital SLR line this is their 2nd best camera ever. The only one that beats it is the new D3, a full frame DSLR. But that camera body costs 2.5 times more and is really geared only for professional photographers. This review of the D3 shows how the D300 compares to the D3.

Some of the features of this camera that excite me include:

  • 12.3 mega pixels
  • CMOS sensor
  • Super fast operation
  • 1/250 flash sync
  • Ability to work with my older Nikon, non auto focus lens with either manual or aperture priority mode
  • 3 in. LCD
  • More sophisticated auto focus system
  • 100% coverage in view finder
  • Lower noise, especially at higher ISO settings

Some views of the camera.

Here are the specifications:

Taking Pictures from a Tandem Bicycle

The local paper, visited us a couple of weeks ago to do a feature story that would run in conjunction with the ACTC annual Tierra Bella Century ride. They ended up running the story a few days before the event and included a couple pictures they had their staff photographer take.

Franz and Ann on Tandem

In the article they talked about our plan to take pictures of the Tierra Bella rides FROM our tandem. Most sporting events have pictures taken by someone who is in one place, capturing the riders as they come by. All this allows the best use of photographic skills, better framing, best lighting angle, etc., it makes for a lot of individual pictures that all have the same background and look pretty much the same.

Our idea was to actually ride the event and take pictures along they way. Franz had his Nikon D70 Digital SLR (DSLR) in a harness and would use one hand to shoot from the hip, while using the other hand to keep control of the bike. Controlling a tandem requires more effort than a single bike. Ann had a Canon compact digital camera she would use from the back of the tandem. She was able in many places to use both hands to operate the camera and her shots turned out better framed and in focus. For the DSLR, the setting of the zoom lens was too wide and it required considerable cropping to get a usable picture. Occasionally the lens would bump the handlebar, pushing it back to the very wide angle position (18 mm). The harness system would loosen form time to time and I had to keep tigthening it. It would have been better if the camera could have been held up even higher on the chest area because it made it difficult to stand and pedal on the bike without it buming into my knees or the handlebar.

We had a great opportunity taking pictures as we were going up Henry Coe, a 12 mile climb with over 3,000 feet of climbing. We often need to stand on the tandem so that required some coordination since Ann would need to put the camera away to hold on the bike. Franz could just just drop the DSLR and let the hang with the harness.

We ended up with over 300 photos of the riders, most all taken while we were moving. I used iPhoto to quickly process the photos, croppoing most of them. When you are taking pictures while riding you have to have the focal length set on the wide angle side so you get the shot you want. Some of the photos were out of focus or blurred because it was too dark in the early morning. The photos we kept were posted on the club’s photo website. Here are a sample of some of the photos we posted.

Creating 2008 Calendar using iPhoto

I usually create a family picture calendar each year for ourselves and each of our family members. I started the tradition some years ago when I would create individual pages and print them in color on my ink jet printer. I would then hand assemble the pages and take them down to Staples to have them bound. Last year I used an online service which worked rather well but it took a lot of time uploading individual pictures and it was hard to see how it really would look. This year I decided to try the iPhoto program on my Mac. It was the slickest experience ever for creating a calendar.

I first went through all the 2007 photos I had and selected about ten times more than I would eventually use. For each month you can select a template from 1 to 7 photos. The photos I had preselected all appear in a bar on the left and you just drag them to the picture area. You can add any text to the calendar portion. When we were all satisfied, we just clicked the Buy Button. It assembles everything and uploads to Apple for printing. This screen shot shows what it looked like inside iPhoto (click to enlarge)

Creating a Calendar in iPhoto

Photo Management using iPhoto

While we were visiting Sara I grabbed her 2007 photos on a small external hard drive I had. She had arranged them in folders with folder names for each event. When I brought them into iPhoto each folder was added as an event and the event name was set to the folder name. Real neat! Each event in iPhoto shows up in reverse chronological order (I set for the most recent on the top). This is what it looks like for part of the iPhoto screen. In iPhoto I just click any event to see all the photos inside, but don’t try this on this website since this is not iPhoto, just a screen capture of it.

Click the image below to view full size.

Example of iPhoto 08

Picture Perfect – iPhoto flaw

I wrote previously about installing iLife ’08 on my Mac and have now had a chance to play around with iPhoto ’08. I even went as far as importing all my family photos into iPhoto. However I setup iPhoto to not bring the photos into the iPhoto library, for a very good reason. I first experimented having iPhoto bring in the photos but the file size of the iPhoto library grew to 18 Gb because there is a single file that contains all of your photos and other data that iPhoto needs. This is different than older versions of iPhoto.

While this may have some inherent advantages, there is a big disadvantage. It means that if you add a single new photo that big huge file gets changed. So what happens when you do a backup of your data, as I do daily to an external hard drive? The entire 18 Gb file gets copied, instead of just the new single 5 mb photo. After realizing this, I started over and set in the perferences to not copy the photos to the iPhoto library. I just keep the photos in my own structure as follows:

2000-2009, with sub folders 2001, 2002, etc. So I group all photos by year.

iPhoto doesn’t really care where the files are stored or in what structure, it imposes it’s own framework. I find this to be the best of both worlds since I can use the Finder to get to a photo if I want, or use iPhoto. I still get all the benefits of iPhoto, including the Events structure.

So when I first open iPhoto it looks like this (click to enlarge):

iPhoto 08 Events

When I first imported the photos, I brought in all photos by year, and that created a seriest of events labeled 2007, 2006, 2005, etc. I opened each year to see all the photos for that year. I then used the neat Split feature in iPhoto 08 to split the photos into events. You can see how this works in the image below for 2005, where I have yet to split into events. I select the photo where the event needs to split then click the Split button in the lower left. It divides the 2005 photos into two events, thos above into one event, and all the rest into another. I enter the label for the event of the photos above that I had just split off of the rest and then I then work my way down and create additional events.

Splitting photos in iPhoto to seperate events

As I use iPhoto going forward, it will create new events for new photos I bring in, making all photos taken the same day under one event (you can change this setting).

You can also use iPhoto 08 to edit your photos, including adjusting the curves as shown below. I find I can do most of the editing I need right inside iPhoto and only need Photoshop for the more tricky stuff.

Edit Photo in iPhoto

So in summary, I like iPhoto ’08, as long as I don’t have it import the files into it’s own library.