The Look Of Spring

The Halo Effect • Steps For Stacking • Music For Slideshows And Video • Overexposure: An Editorial

A montage of roses created with nine exposures on a single frame; for each capture, the handheld camera was repositioned within the composition. Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 180mm macro, 1⁄180 sec. at ƒ/8, ISO 400

The Halo Effect
If you’re looking for a new approach to spring flower photography, you could try adding a soft “halo” to the blossoms for a whimsical or moody appearance. You can achieve this effect at capture or in postprocessing on the computer.

Many current DSLRs have the capability of capturing multiple exposures on a single frame. Several of my Canon cameras can accomplish up to nine exposures per frame, but I usually take only two for the halo effect. You’ll need to work from a tripod. Once you’ve composed your image and programmed the camera to take multiple exposures on the same frame, capture the first image with the camera nicely focused to give a sharp image. For the second capture, throw the subject considerably out of focus. Usually, it works best to achieve the out-of-focus capture by placing the area of focus in the space in front of the subject rather than behind it. You don’t want the background, or any other part of the second image, to be in focus; you want it all out of focus. Look at the result on the LCD screen. You have several ways to modify what you see if that result isn’t to your liking. You can adjust the range of focus for the second image to either increase or decrease the “out-of-focus” capture. Or you can change the exposure for either the sharp or unsharp image to emphasize either one. Pixels are cheap, so experiment! The beauty is that you can see the result and make adjustments immediately. From here, your imagination should be working. You might try setting the camera for more than two exposures on the frame to capture the same or different flowers in a montage. If your camera doesn’t have the multiple-exposure feature, take two identically framed sequential images, one sharp and another out of focus, and combine them with a Blend mode in the computer.

You can achieve the multiple-exposure effect with a single capture in imaging software. In Photoshop, make a new background copy layer of the subject and then apply a filter blur (Gaussian Blur) of about a 25-pixel Radius. Reduce the opacity of the upper (blurred) layer to about 50%, and you’ll have a sharp subject with a beautiful soft look. The result is similar, but not exactly the same, as the effect achieved with multiple captures; experiment with the amount of blur and opacity for different results.

This technique works nicely on portraits—of humans and animals—as well.

Two exposures on the same frame, one sharp, one out of focus, give a tender, soft look—a halo effect—to these hollyhock blossoms. Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 100-400mm zoom at 400mm, 1⁄1500 sec. at ƒ/8, ISO 400

Steps For Stacking

Q I’ve downloaded Zerene Stacker and discovered that the program works only with TIFFs or JPEGs. How do you incorporate RAW images into your Zerene Stacker workflow? Do you have to process the series of RAW files first and convert to TIFF before stacking? Or do you shoot only JPEGs when you plan to stack a series of images with different points of focus?
L. Rankin
Via email

A When I’m capturing stacked images, I usually work in RAW format. Before compositing the images, I bring them into Adobe Raw Converter or Adobe Lightroom to optimize them; then I save the optimized images as 16-bit TIFFs. At that point, they’re ready for compositing in Zerene Stacker or any other stacking software.

You don’t have to convert the RAW files before stacking in Adobe Photoshop or Helicon Focus because these programs make the conversion as part of their processing sequence. Even so, it makes sense to apply precisely the same optimization processing to each file prior to stacking, and saving them in a different file format preserves your original RAW captures in case you want to come back to them later. Once the stacking is completed, I bring the final image into Photoshop to make any necessary improvements to it.

That said, when I’m working on extremely large projects, I capture in the largest JPEG file to keep file sizes from getting out of hand, then follow the same workflow. I just finished a macro panorama with 80 stacked positions comprised of more than 1,400 captures. Even with the JPEG capture, the final image size was 2.1 GB in an 8-bit file.

Music For Slideshows And Video

Q I’m finishing up a slideshow, and I also like doing time-lapse videos that are always better with music. Where can I find music to accompany these programs, and what are the requirements for copyright so I don’t get in trouble for infringement?
J. Andersen
Asked at a seminar

A As photographers, we should respect everyone’s intellectual property. Even if you’re only showing your slide/music programs to the folks at the camera club or senior center, you should be working with licensed music. And, if you want to place your work on social media such as YouTube, you’ll need to be sure you’re not violating any copyrights.

For the last couple of years, I’ve been working with a company called SmartSound and their software Sonicfire. Not only does the company maintain an excellent library of diverse music for use with movies, slideshows or time-lapse sequences, their technology allows the photographer to instantly match the length of the song to the video. You can also change the mix of the instruments making up the piece and then make variations on the music’s arrangement. All of this sounds complicated, but it really isn’t. After going through the online tutorials, I can easily work with music that no one else would recognize and that specifically fits the content.

SmartSound’s software and music albums aren’t free, but if you’re trying to do quality work that doesn’t sound like everyone else’s, this is the way to go. And all the music comes with a certification that it’s 100% copyright clear. That means a lot to me.

Overexposure: An Editorial
At seminars around the country, we’ve received a lot of feedback to our discussion of “art vs. state of the art” that appeared in this space last July. (See “In The Eye Of The Beholder,” Essentially, we suggested that skilled photographers, in a photographic world with virtually no technical limitations, will find that modern tools and techniques expand their opportunities to express creative visions in ways that engage viewers.

There’s a growing backlash against technically precise photography, however, especially as it applies to the genre of landscape. For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll define “technically precise” as photography that’s beautifully composed, captured in the most advantageous light, saturated, with good tonality and deliberately placed detail. Some commentators lament the “soullessness” of the gorgeous landscapes, captured from exotic locations and postprocessed to stunning perfection, that now permeate social media, television and galleries, both physical and virtual. If a photographer is paying that much attention to light, color, dramatic message and pursuit of accolades and/or sales, they ask, where do the intangibles of inspiration, vision, message and creativity come into the mix? Is all that perfection getting to be just plain boring?

While there’s no doubt that beautiful landscape photography is everywhere, I’ve spent enough time with other photographers to know I’m not the only one who feels the excitement and fulfillment that come with discovering and capturing a place in your own way and in mastering new techniques that expand your creative interpretation. It’s easy to say that it’s all been done; just Google “images of Iceland” or “images of Patagonia.” And, for some, a response to the overwhelming abundance of magnificent “modern” landscapes is to go retro, pick up the old film camera, shoot in black-and-white and create in the darkroom. That’s okay, too. The old adage “ƒ/8 and be there” might now be revised to “iPhone and be there” because it really is about the journey, the place, the experience and the story you share with your photography. The viewer’s response doesn’t really matter; it’s what the photographer sees, feels, learns, conveys and remembers that counts now, more than ever, in an overexposed world.

See George Lepp’s website for upcoming workshops and seminars at

One of North America’s best-known contemporary outdoor and nature photographers and a leader in the field of digital imaging and photographic education, Lepp is the author of many books and the field editor of Outdoor Photographer magazine. One of Canon’s original Explorers of Light, Lepp finds inspiration in advancing technology that fuels creative innovation and expression of his life-long fascination with the natural world.