Thursday, June 25, 2015

Using PhotoShop Stack Mode to minimize high ISO graininess

Meet the Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa), a species of milkweed native to eastern North America.  This seems to be a particularly good year for them.  I see prominent patches of their orange blooms off the side of the road as I drive around lately.

I took a series of focus-stack shots in the evening yesterday and ended up using 19 of them to make this picture.  Lately, I've been using the Auto ISO setting on my camera, so because of the time of day and the f/16 stop I was using, the Auto ISO ended up going all the way to 3200.

The first step in my process is to align all of the shots to each other.  Although I was using a tripod, a slight breeze was causing noticeable movement.  It wasn't so bad that the alignment process couldn't deal with it.

A bigger problem arose when I tried to do the Auto-blend step in PhotoShop to create the focus stack.  I had a very pesky photo bomber waltzing through my picture.  That's her, below, dancing from flower to flower.

Normally, like in the case of a fly, I'll just eliminate the shots that have the photo bomber.  In this case, however, the bomber was in quite a few of them.

I decided to invoke a technique that I have rarely used.  After I restacked the images, I used the PhotoShop command Layer --> Smart Objects --> Stack Mode --> Median, which analyzed the picture and removed anything that wasn't in all of the shots, i.e., the ant.

Try as I might, however, I couldn't find a way to Auto-blend the layers without bringing back the photo bomber.  As luck would have it, though, the f/16 aperture I had used already gave me a fairly decent depth of field.  While researching the other Stack Mode commands in the hope of finding something that would help me, I discovered that the Mean command was particularly good for removing graininess from high-ISO stacked images.  And it did it quite well.

If you look closely at the image with the photo bomber and compare it to the first image, you'll see the reduction in graininess that I'm talking about.  

Friday, June 5, 2015

Avian Flu

I'm hearing more and more recently about the avian flu.  The price of eggs is supposed to be going up because of this.  There was even a piece in today's Mountaineer ENews:   Safeguard your poultry flock amid avian flu concerns.  Wouldn't you know it, though?  The direct link to the safeguard article is broken!

But I'm going somewhere with this, and I had better get there...   another idea for my first million dollars:  flu masks for poultry, i..e., chickens and ducks.  This is going to be a test of my PhotoShop skills, because I doubt that I'm actually going to be able to get masks on a bird for real.

I did some marketing research on Google, looking to see if anyone else has come up with my brilliant idea.  So far, it's MY idea.    Visions of crowd funding are dancing in my head.

Oh, BTW, in my search, this was among the first hits:  a DIY mask:

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Close call on the mythic gold bug

Last year, I declared the gold bug to be one of my goals.  Yes, you may laugh.  Later, I actually sighted one, but it got away before I could photograph it.

The gods mocked me again last night, when I was able to photograph the gold bug's close relative, the Mottled Tortoise Beetle (Deloyala guttata).

It's sitting on a sheet of paper.  I photographed it with my iPhone 5s, with an Olloclip 7x magnification lens.  The MTB (as we bug brains like to call it) is quite fetching it its own right.

And lest you think I stand alone among nuts, here's a nice page of tortoise beetle pictures.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Plum Rude

I do not wish to mock the dead or the living for that matter.  There's a stone monument in the Oak Grove Cemetery off of Dorsey Avenue in Morgantown that cannot escape my comment, however.  Two families, Plum and Rude, share a plot together.

Plum, as an adjective, can be used as an intensifier (e.g., "I'm plum tuckered out").

I hope that I haven't been plum rude to point this out.

It's not dead yet

Came across an article in The Guardian yesterday (Thursday 28 May 2015) by Dorian Lynskey. Titled How the compact disc lost its shine, the article is an epitaph for the compact disk, 1985-2015.

I'm not going to get into the whole thing here.  Something in the article, however, led me to recall an artifact from the early 80s that I bought at a used record store.  It's a CBS Records Compact Disc Demonstration CD.

Here's a scan of a part of the insert:

The jewel case cover is on the right, and as you can see, it's been defaced a bit by the previous owner, with assorted scratches and pen scribbles.  The CD itself has minor scuffing, but it's still quite playable.

Googling the CD title turned up some interesting things., a site for collectors of Michael Jackson ephemera, mentions the CD here.  It says that the CD is from USA, which isn't quite correct.  It was made in Japan, but it was sent to radio DJs in the USA as a promotional item.
Sent to select USA radio stations in 1983 by "CBS Records", this 21 track promo-only CD was one of the first compact discs ever made in the USA. Features Michael's first appearance on a compact disc format in the USA. Track #19 is "Thriller."
Another site,, posts a forum discussion that mentions the Electric Light Orchestra song Don't Bring Me Down, which appears on the compilation.
The very old promo disc CBS Records Compact Disc Demonstration (1983) runs at 115.2 BPM throughout, and sounds a little dull, but only a little.
And here's an entry from, which talks about Bob Dylan songs.  Under the 1983 heading, I found this entry:
Bob's contribution to this very rare demonstration disc (intended for the US market but actually made in Japan) is Just Like A Woman from Blonde On Blonde.

Thanks to Hans Seegers for information and scans. Thanks to "Ranger Granger" for dating this as 1983, it was given away with some of the first CD players sold in the USA.
I searched on eBay, and I found under completed items that some discerning buyer had paid $25.49 for a copy of this CD.  Granted, the insert paper was in much better condition than the one that I scanned in above.  However, my copy of the CD itself appears to be in much better condition.

The wheels are starting to turn.