Plotagraph of Milford Sound after a storm

I am continuing to enjoy playing with plotagraph to create animations from single images. Today’s example is of Milford Sound, New Zealand, after one of the typical heavy storms that you get there, which cause the waterfalls to go crazy! The plotagraph really conveys how the waterfall looked at the time – and the moving clouds add drama.

Click on the image to see a higher resolution version (it looks much better larger!).

Milford Sound Waterfall 3 (640px, 30fps)

Here is a video version, which may play more smoothly depending on your system.

Here is the original static image:

Milford Sound waterfall 3

See all my plotagraph posts.

 

Plotagraph of Jökulsárlón beach at sunset

Here is my plotagraph of the day – for more info on plotagraphs see my previous posts. A fellow photographer in a Facebook discussion asked whether I thought that any of the plotagraphs I’d done were better than the original picture, and I think that this one is the one where I can most clearly say yes to that. It was taken on Jökulsárlón beach in Iceland at sunset. I think that the power of the waves is much better conveyed in the moving image. As with other images I’ve created, I’m very impressed with the looping effect – this is a wave that never dies! What do you think?

Jokulsarlon beach 1 (640px, 30fps)

Here is the original still image that this was created from:

Jok beach wave 1

More plotagraphs

So having done my first plotagraph earlier, I’ve been playing around some more to try different types of picture and see what works well and what doesn’t. I still haven’t decided whether it’s a short term novelty or something that will last, but it’s certainly a fun tool to play around with and you can produce some very impressive effects with it. Read my previous post for more info, but each of the animations here was produced from a single still image.

Some of the obvious things to try to animate include clouds, fire, rivers and waterfalls, and I have some initial examples of each of these, some good and some not so good, to give an idea of scenarios that work well and not so well.

Here is a more cheerful and sunny cloud example than my previous apocalyptic one! This is Cushman Lake near Telluride. I was able to make the reflected clouds in the lake match the movement of the clouds in the sky. This was pretty quick and easy to do, and I think it came out nicely – I find it quite tranquil and soothing.

Cushman Lake summer (640px, 30fps)

The next example is a fun fire one – this is me and Paula at a New Year’s Eve bonfire in Reykjavik. I think that the flame, smoke and sparks are all handled pretty well.

Pete Paula bonfire (640px, 30fps)

Next a water example which I think works pretty well, featuring a mother duck and her eight ducklings. This fairly subtle but I again find it quite soothing.

Ducks (640px, 30fps)

Here’s one of a heron fishing which also works pretty well. When herons are fishing like this they do stand absolutely still, so this is relatively lifelike!

Heron (640px, 30fps)

Lastly, a wildlife in the river one that doesn’t work so well – this is a bear in Waterton Canyon, just outside Denver. Here there are rocks visible beneath the surface of the water, so the flow doesn’t look so natural. Perhaps this is just stating the obvious, but something to watch out for if you’re looking for an image that will make a good plotagraph.

Bear (640px, 30fps)

Now onto waterfalls. This first one I really like – it’s Bear Creek Falls in Telluride. It was some work to get the masking areas right, where there is motion, but they were well enough defined that I think the effect is good. You get the nice smooth water effect from the long exposure of the original photo, plus a nice flow effect – I think it would be hard to get this combination by other means.

Bear Creek Falls (640px, 30fps)

This next one is also at Bear Creek Falls and is pretty nice, but not quite as good I don’t think. There are a couple of spots where there’s more rock and less water where the flow looks a little off, and it was a bit harder to get the edge of the water defined. But still not too bad.

Bear Creek Falls sunstar (640px, 30fps)

The last waterfall example is Sjellalandsfoss in Iceland. This image has really proved quite tricky to get a nice result with. This is my third attempt and it has improved on the first two. But in a lot of places here it is hard to define a clear boundary to the flowing water. In several places there is a mixture of water and rock, and it’s easy to get an effect where you have a mixture of falling water and rock which doesn’t look good. Then in the lower half of the main fall there’s a lot of solid white and it’s hard to convey motion there.

Sjellalndsfoss (640px, 30fps)

Anyway, hopefully this gives you an idea of some of the sorts of scene that you can animate with Plotagraph. It’s definitely a fun thing to play with!

My first plotagraph

I just created my first plotagraph! This is a new type of animated image that is created from a single static photo, using some (expensive) software called Plotagraph Pro. The effect is similar to a Cinemagraph, which uses video as a source to create a partly dynamic and partly static image. I found out about this from Trey Ratcliff, whose workshop I attended in Denver a couple of weeks ago, and he has some nice examples and explanations here.

Sunset storm over Denver (640px, 30fps) (1)

The nice thing about the plotagraph approach is that it works with any photo you’ve taken. This image of the storm in Denver was one that sprang to my mind as something that would look good as a plotagraph – I rather regretted that I hadn’t taken a timelapse of this scene at the time, but I didn’t start early enough and the weather was getting ugly so I was concerned about leaving my equipment out. Now I have a timelapse like effect from the one image! I also think it’s really cool how the software manages to create a continuous loop effect without an obvious start and end point.

I am sure I can refine the image above as I get to know the software better, but wanted to post my first attempt! Update: see my next post for more cool sample plotagraphs.

Here is the original static image, just for comparison:

P1480073-Edit

Bye bye Nikon – gear for sale!

From about 2006 through 2014 I used a Nikon DSLR as my “serious” camera, first  a D80 and then a D7000, both of which were mid range DSLRs of their time, and I was very pleased with how they both worked for me.

In 2011 I got my first micro four thirds camera, a LUMIX GH2 – this is an interchangeable lens camera format that gives similar quality and capabilities to traditional DSLRs, but in a much more compact format. Panasonic (LUMIX) and Olympus are the two main manufacturers making micro four thirds cameras.

The GH2 I used primarily for video, for which it was excellent – much better than a traditional DSLR. In 2013 I bought the LUMIX GX7 when it came out, which was incredibly light compared to my Nikon D7000, and also had some nice new features that weren’t on the D7000. But the D7000 was still better for wildlife shooting, especially for birds in flight. I continued to use both to some degree, but used the GX7 more and because of its small size and weight. In 2015 I bought the LUMIX GX8 when that came out, which was a bit bigger than the GX7, but felt like a much more serious and professional camera. I quickly switched to using that exclusively for my serious photography, and when I checked my photo library recently I found that I haven’t used my Nikon cameras at all in the past 18 months.
Nikon camera gear
Nikon camera gear
So, I’ve decided that it’s time to sell my Nikon gear, which is still great. The D7000 was introduced in 2010 but still holds up pretty well against today’s Nikon DSLRs. It’s a good inexpensive option either as an upgrade for someone with an entry level Nikon DSLR, or as a backup body for someone with a newer mid to high end Nikon DSLR. Combined with the 18-300mm zoom lens, this is a great step for wildlife photography – for example I took these bald eagle pictures with this setup.
Bald eagle over water
Bald eagle over water
The D80 is older, but would still be a good very inexpensive option for someone wanting to learn the basics of shooting a DSLR, or as a backup body. I also have several lenses, two barely used flash units, and an external GPS logger that will store the location of each photo embedded in the photo itself, without needing any post processing.
Here is the complete list. All items are in excellent condition. I’ll consider reasonable offers, and knock some extra off if you buy multiple items.

Camera bodies

Nikon D7000 – $400 (including two batteries and charger)
Nikon D80 – $100 (including two batteries and charger)

Zoom lenses

Nikon AF-S 18-300mm f:3.5-5.6G ED VR – $650
Nikon AF-S 18-200mm f:3.5-5.6G ED VR – $400
Nikon AF-S 18-105mm 1:3.5-5.6G ED VR – $150 (practically unused)
Nikon AF-S 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6G – $60 (practically unused)

Prime lenses

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G DX Lens – $140 (practically unused)
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G DX Lens – $140 (practically unused)

Flash units

Nikon Speedlight SB-700 $275 (practically unused) – includes padded case and accessories
Nikon Speedlight SB-400 $125 (practically unused) – includes padded case and accessories

Geotagger

Opteka geotagger $25

If you are interested, please email me at peter@ebatty.com or contact me on Facebook. I’d prefer to sell them to someone local to the Denver, but will consider shipping if I don’t get good local offers, or if you make me a good enough deal :).

My current camera gear (for New Zealand trip)

I am about to leave on a two week trip to New Zealand with Paula, and thought I would post a quick summary of the camera gear I am taking, which is most of my camera gear (but not my new drone). As I’ve mentioned before, I am very into traveling light, and as usual I managed to fit everything for this trip, including photography gear and clothes, into a single carry on bag (my Tom Bihn Aeronaut). Okay, I cheated slightly in that we are going to a wedding at the end of the trip, and my suit for the wedding is in Paula’s suitcase which she is checking. Though when I went to Japan recently I did manage to fit a suit in my one bag, by wearing the jacket on the plane and packing the trousers.

Anyway, this is a picture of my photo gear (excluding computers, chargers and cables):

Camera gear

The equipment here is:

A Lumix GX8, my main camera, at the top. I love this – it’s at the top end of the Lumix micro four thirds camera range, and I’ve had a great experience with it. It is so much lighter and smaller than the Nikon D7000 I used previously, and has some great features. I will review it in more detail one of these days.

A Lumix 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 lens (28-280mm equivalent) is on the GX8 camera. This is the lens I mainly use for landscape and travel photography, it is very versatile.

An Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro lens with a 1.4x teleconverter (112-420mm equivalent in total) is at the top right. This is my big lens for wildlife photography, and it’s a fantastic lens, the sharpest I have ever owned.

Below this is a Lumix GX7, the predecessor to the GX8, which I still have for backup – it works with all the same lenses, though unfortunately not with the same batteries. In the end I decided not to take this to New Zealand, this is the only thing in the picture that got cut.I have taken the GX8 on quite a few trips now, including two to Iceland and one to Japan, and it hasn’t let me down yet! On this camera is a Lumix 20mm f/1.7 lens, which I don’t use that often but it’s a very fast and sharp lens.

To the left of that is my Lumix LX7 (I’m a Lumix guy!), which is an all in one pocketable camera that is great in low light – its lens is f/1.4 at the widest zoom. This is the only camera that was also on my gear list two years ago. It has lasted really well, but Lumix has some newer cameras in a similar vein that I would look at if I was buying something like this today.

To the left of that is a headlamp for helping out with night photography, and then a Lumix 14mm f/2.5 lens (28mm equivalent), which is the main lens I use for photographing the night sky. Apparently this has now been discontinued by Lumix. It’s an amazingly small and light lens – it weighs just under 2oz, or around 50g.

At the top left is a car cam that I just bought, the iTrue X3 dash cam. The idea of this is to record our road trips. It’s similar to a GoPro in some ways, but less expensive and the big plus is that it will run from an external power supply plugged into the car cigarette lighter, and also it automatically starts and stops when you turn the car ignition on and off. It will record video in a loop, overwriting the oldest files as the card fills up. We did a quick test on our recent trip to Telluride, and found that we will need two 32GB micro SD cards to record a whole day of driving – so we will generate a lot of data for our whole 12 day road trip!

Because of this I am also taking a G-Technology G-Drive 1TB mobile disk drive, which will plug into my MacBook Air via USB. I just got this, but have had good experience with similar G-Technology products in the past.

There is a new GoPro Hero4 Session in the middle near the left, which I just bought and I was very impressed with my initial tests while skiing. It is relatively inexpensive ($199) and has no screen and simple controls, but you can remotely control it and see what the camera sees using your smart phone with a WiFi connection. It is also waterproof without requiring a case. I am taking two connectors for it to New Zealand, one to mount it on a tripod (or selfie stick!), and a larger suction mount that I can use to mount it on a car, boat or helicopter!!

At the bottom right are two neutral density filters, an ND8 and an ND400, which I use for taking long exposures, especially of waterfalls or other water features, plus some spare batteries (three in total for the GX8, two for the LX7).

And finally three tripods, the main one is a MeFoto Backpacker Travel Tripod, made from titanium, which weighs just 2.6 pounds and folds up to be only 12.8″ long. I have been very pleased with this, it works very well for such a small and light tripod. I have two other mini tripods which I will mainly use with the LX7 or the GoPro.

And last but not least, not pictured is my iPhone 6S, which I used to take these pictures. So I will have five cameras in total including the iPhone.

The picture below shows the GX8 in a small packing cube with the three smaller lens – the 14-140mm, 14mm and 20mm. All this together weighs just 2.5 pounds!

IMG_1080

This is incredibly lightweight and compact compared to a traditional DSLR alternative, which is a great attraction of the micro four thirds system. My big lens with the teleconverter weighs 2.25 pounds, and the largest tripod weighs 2.6 pounds as mentioned previously.

My whole carry on bag including all the camera gear, my 11″ MacBook Air and iPad mini, plus all necessary chargers and cables etc, and my clothing, weighs in at 30 pounds. Here it is on my back:

IMG_1086

One final gear note – I decided not to take my Apple Watch on this trip. I’ve been underwhelmed with it in general, and really don’t want to have to recharge it every night when I have lots of other gear that also needs charging, with higher priority!

Instead I decided to take one of my classic watches, and went for this one with four time zones, since I always get confused with Australian and New Zealand times!  Clockwise from top left, the time in Denver, Auckland, Sydney and London.

IMG_1084

All packed now and ready to head out tomorrow – stay tuned for lots of pictures!

 

How I saw snow monkeys in Japan and ice caves in Iceland without taking a day off work

Last weekend I hiked across a glacier to visit several amazing ice caves in Iceland, and the weekend before I photographed the amazing snow monkeys in Japan. I did this without taking a single day off work.

Hello snow monkey!
Hello snow monkey!

Because I post a lot of photos and adventures online, people often ask me, “are you still working these days?”. The answer is yes, I have a full time job, but I just make more effort than most people to fit things in around my work schedule – and I am fortunate to travel quite a bit with work. So I thought I would post this to encourage people to make more effort to fit in adventures when you travel for work (or indeed when you are at home!). There’s no rocket science to this, it’s just making the effort to fit things in, and perhaps being a bit creative about how you organize your travel to optimize your time.

Snow monkeys in Japan

I was scheduled for a 3 day meeting with our company’s Japanese team in Tokyo. They suggested we could start the meeting on Wednesday, which would mean I could fly from Denver on Monday morning and arrive Tuesday evening in time for the meeting – you lose a day going out there – and then fly back either Friday night or Saturday. That would use up a week of work time, with two days of travel and three days of meetings. I suggested to them that instead I would fly out on Saturday morning and we should meet from Monday to Wednesday, then I could fly back on Sunday night, which would get me four days to explore in Japan. I am still fitting my five working days into that 9 day stretch, just organizing things a little differently to get my four days in Japan.

Relaxed snow monkeys!
Relaxed snow monkeys!

I will post more details on my snow monkey trip shortly, but in summary it was an amazing trip and I got lots of fantastic pictures. I did it as a two day trip from Tokyo – a morning traveling up there, an afternoon with the monkeys, a great evening at a traditional Japanese “Ryokan” hotel, and another morning with the monkeys before traveling back. I also fitted in some exploring in Tokyo, including a visit to the fish market, some great food, my first visit to a Japanese Onsen (public baths) with my friend Edson, which was a really interesting experience, and some time wondering around the historic district of Asakusa. Not bad for a full week at work!

Ice caves in Iceland

After my Japanese meeting had been set and I had booked travel, it turned out that I needed to be in England the following week for a management meeting. I looked at what it would take to change my tickets to fly from Tokyo straight on to London, and it was ridiculously expensive. So I decided to leave my original tickets as they were, return to Denver on Sunday lunchtime local time and then fly straight out to London that afternoon.

View from Sapphire Cave
View from Sapphire Cave

I had been intrigued by the IcelandAir stopover deal, which lets you fly from Denver (and various other US cities) to London (and various other European cities), and do a free stopover in either direction. On top of that, they had the cheapest fare of any airline from Denver to London on the dates that I wanted to go, and that seems to be consistently the case. Paula and I had just been to Iceland over New Year and we had a fantastic time, but the ice cave tour that we booked was canceled because of flooding, and also we didn’t see the Northern Lights, partly as we had lots of cloudy weather. So I was quite tempted to revisit, because we had liked it so much, and in particular to try to catch up on either or both of those things that we missed.

I was a little in two minds because of the craziness of my travel schedule, and wondered whether I should just take the British Airways direct flight, rather than flying Tokyo to Denver to Reykjavik to London. But you only live once, so I decided to go for it.

Or as Tim Ferriss said recently:

Time is a non-renewable resource, while money can be recouped. Think hard, work smart, and play often. Assume this life is your only chance at bat, so schedule the fun stuff.

I’m a big fan of Tim and this is very much my philosophy too.

So I went ahead and booked the IcelandAir flight. I arrived in Denver from Tokyo at 12:21pm, then flew out to Reykjavik at 4:15pm. Paula came to the airport to meet me for lunch and swap a couple of items in my baggage! I arrived at London Gatwick at 11:23 Monday morning, and made it to Cambridge in time for some mid afternoon meetings, and my main meetings started the next day. Two colleagues who were attending the same meetings also flew out from Denver Sunday afternoon, but took the direct BA flight.

We had meetings in London all day Thursday. My colleagues flew back to Denver on Friday, a full day of travel. Instead, I caught an IcelandAir flight out of London Heathrow at 8:30pm on Thursday night, getting into Reykjavik at 11:30pm. My flight on to Denver was at 5pm on Sunday, so I got more or less three whole days in Iceland, again without having to take a day off work, as otherwise I would have just been flying home on the Friday.

I booked an ice cave tour for the Saturday with Local Guide of VatnaJokull, who I recommend highly. It was a really incredible experience, see my picture story about it here.

Me in Waterfall Cave
Me in Waterfall Cave

Summary

As I said above, there is no great rocket science to this, but a surprisingly large number of people don’t take the opportunity to fit in something cool and interesting when they are on a business trip. As this story illustrates, you don’t necessarily even need to take any days off work to do some really cool things.

This particular example was an extreme case, where I was in Japan one week and Europe the next. But the same principles apply regardless of where you are traveling. I definitely recommend that anyone flying between the US and Europe should consider the IcelandAir stopover deal – Iceland is such a cool place, and I see this becoming a frequent destination for me, as I travel regularly between Denver and the UK.

Travel better!