A Little Less Heat

September is here and while it is still summer, the brutality of July and August are past and I have started to feel the urge to come out of the shade and shoot some photos. I don’t mind the heat so much, but the heat we had in July and early August made it kind of miserable outside. Late August and early September have brought some relief and some rain. After a good rain Saturday night, I decided to grab my full camera backpack and go hiking Sunday morning. The morning started out cloudy, but by the time I got out to the trails it had mostly cleared up.

The photo below shows the trail emerging from the shady trees and heading out across the open hillside. I have thought about shooting this part of the trail for some time and on this day, peaking out of the shade into the sunlight seemed appropriate. I would have liked to have taken a shot from deeper up the trail, but it curves off just behind where I stood and you would no longer be able to see through to the hillside.

I first approached this photo by waiting for a cloud to block the sun to reduce the harsh contrast through the branches. But I also thought that the direct sun creating a lattice of shadows on the path might be interesting, so I have that photo below. The direct sun does make the shaded part of the trail warmer and less muddy looking and maybe I like it better.

Even though it wasn’t brutally hot, it was hot and thanks to the rain a bit humid. On this occasion I happened to grab an insulated metal water bottle that I got as a gift recently instead of the standard aluminum water bottles I usually bring. The water was refreshingly cool in the insulated bottle even after hiking around in the sun for a couple of hours. If it were in my single-walled aluminum bottles, the water would be quite warm. The bottle is a little heavier, but it might be worth it to keep your water cool.

Farther up the trail, there is a small lonely juniper that survived the dry heat of the summer. To me it looks like a miniature of a full grown tree more so than other small trees I have seen. It has caught my eye a few times so I decided to mess around with it.

I had recently watched a guy on YouTube that I follow talking about focus-stacking and I decided that I didn’t do that enough. It is really not much trouble to do this, you just have to take a few photos to merge later, so I gave it a try. First is an image focused on the tree shot at f/10. The hillside in the distance is not really in focus as it is so far behind the tree. I am not happy with the placement of the tree interfering with the horizon but that is as low as I could get on my tripod.

Next, I focus stacked it with an image that I took focusing on the distant hill. Photoshop didn’t do a really good job of merging the photos as the blurry blades of grass in the foreground really confused it. It also had a lot of trouble with the areas though the tree branches. I then had a go at it by masking it myself and got a slightly better image, but not really great. My merge is below.

I think that if this is to work, you have to have a clean foreground and that was my issue above. I didn’t really want to go pull all of the grasses out of the way so I got what I got. Not sure the distant hill being in sharp focus helps anyway. It isn’t a great photo in this light and I was just experimenting.

I did manage to get down lower handheld but didn’t bother trying to focus stack. My goal was use as long a focal length as possible to get the tree in frame and the distant hill as large as possible. You might be able to see that the sun moving in and out of clouds affected the white balance and the color from photo to photo may look a little different. The image below is in direct sunlight.

I didn’t see anything else that inspired me to shoot a photo. Even though it had rained, the creek and waterfall were still dry. Maybe in a month or two that will be interesting again. I am ready for the, not coolness of autumn, but the less heat of autumn. Hiking without the risk of heat stroke is always good. Thanks for reading.

22 thoughts on “A Little Less Heat

  1. Jason, I previously have never done anything with focus stacking in PS because it seemed so labor intensive and I would rather be outside shooting. However, after switching camera systems and now shooting Olympus, the older versions, OMD’s M1 2 and. 3, the cameras have in-camera focus stacking. This video is by one of their techs and it’s short and gives a quick overview of the capability of doing focus stacking in camera. I have used it in shooting in a graveyard at a historic church and amazingly, it worked. jerry

    This blog post about a church in Siouxland, the first image was done using focus stacking to get the grave marker and the church in focus. I think I use 7-8 frames with a f/8 aperture.


    1. There is a focus-stacking feature on my camera but I haven’t used it. It really isn’t that bad of a process in Photoshop. But I guess if you had like 8 – 10 images to merge, that could take a while. The two image merges that I did took a few seconds.


  2. I am glad you hit the publish button! The picture of the trail does give room for one’s imagination, and I agree that the second photo of it is better.
    I also really like the clouds in the distant photo of the Juniper tree. The little tree, may be good for a story as well. 🙂
    Sounds like the metal thermos was the perfect gift. Cold water is always better than warm, well unless you have coffee beans in the warm water.

    Liked by 1 person

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