Tag Archives: vineyards

Fantastic Idea: Photo Stacking

OK.  Be ye warned…for those of you who could care less about that even smacks of technical information about photography, you may only want to look at today’s picture and then go to the trivia and historical tidbits today.

In a post 2 days ago, I mentioned a new technique (focus stacking) that I’ve learned about and which I’m playing with.  Today’s picture is my second attempt with this…and I’m still learning about when this technique is useful and the types of subject matter that it is best used with.  I say that to let you know that there are some obvious flaws in this picture…so excuse me while I’m learning!  (I know some of you say you have to excuse me all the time!!!!)

The concept behind focus stacking is really quite simple.  Every picture has a point which is in sharpest focus.  If you shoot a macro shot, things closest to the camera (as a general rule) will be in sharp focus but everything beyond that will be blurry.  And, if you focus on something even just a few feet away (or farther) then things closer than that will be blurry, too.  Focus stacking is something that is done in Photoshop (I am using CS5 – don’t know if you can do it in Photoshop Elements or not, or at what version of Photoshop it was introduced) and the idea is that you take multiple exposures at varying focus points and then tell Photoshop that you want it to combine the exposures into a single image by choosing the areas of each exposure that are in focus and building a composite image out of the sharpest focus areas in each picture to form a single image with sharpness from close to far.

Here’s a simplified description for those who want to know how to do it.  Use a tripod or set the camera on a firm surface.  Find a subject that has things near and far away that you want to capture in a single, final exposure.  I’d recommend not to try to shoot plants, leaves, etc. on windy days (that’s the cause of most of the problems in my picture today), and not sure about how it works with other moving objects, but probably not too well.  Set your aperture to the smallest aperture you can (probably F22 or bigger in terms of the f-stop number).  For your first picture, turn your focus ring to MACRO and take your first shot.  Then turn your focus ring to about 1-1.5 meters and take another shot (being careful to not “zoom” or turn anything else!).  Then set the focus ring to about 3 meters and take another shot.  Then, maybe one more at 6-10 meters or so, take the shot, and then finally take a shot with the focus all the way dialed in to infinity and take another shot.

After doing a couple of things, you eventually load the images into Photoshop and will use their focus stacking capability to produce the final image.  (If you want more detailed information, let me know and I can email you a link to a video that shows how to do it all.)

The two problems with today’s image that will jump out at you are toward the top center where a branch was moving and created “ghosting”.  The second is toward to top right of the picture where there’s some vignetting and dark blurring caused by moving leaves, etc..  Other than that, though, I was pretty pleased with the result and the image turned out with a much wider range of sharpness from front to back than you’d ever get with a single exposure (as a general rule).

‘Nuff said.  Back to more “funner” stuff tomorrow!!!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1967, a California singing group called The Association, got a gold record for their song Never My Love.  They would go on to have other hits with Windy, Cherish, and Along Comes Mary (my personal favorite).

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: vampire bats don’t suck blood.  They bite, then lick the blood off the wound.

Now That’s What I’m Talkin’ About

It seemed this year that the nice color was missing in the vineyards.  I must say that if I compare it to last year, this year doesn’t measure up.  For whatever reason (I’m told it has to do with severe and significant weather changes at that right time), the color this year just hasn’t measured up.  Two or three weeks ago, I was talking to my wife as we were driving down highway 101 that the colors this year seemed rather dull and dingy.  She agreed.

Maybe we complained just a bit too soon, or we were just too impatient, because now the colors are better.  I won’t say that they equal last year (which was the best year for color in the vineyards that’d I’d seen in our 9 years here), but they are beautiful in spots now.  I don’t know if they’ll get much better than this for this fall because so many of the leaves have already fallen, but there are some really pretty vineyards at the moment.

Today’s photo was taken next to the Trione winery on the east side of highway 101.  I took it on Saturday when Laurel was gone with my sister to, well, you guessed it, shop.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll share a picture that I took using a new technique called focus stacking.  It’s rather interesting.  I’ve only tried it twice, and I have a way to go before I’m good at it, but it offers some really exciting possibilities for a photographer when used with the right type of scene.

But for now, on to the vineyard!!!!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1949, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer hit the music charts, becoming THE musical hit of the holiday season.  Gene Autry’s version was the most popular, but it’s been recorded over 80 times and over 20 million copies have been sold.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Americans consume 353 million pounds of turkey during National Turkey Lover’s Month (June), but over 675 million pounds during Thanksgiving (and some years, I think I’ve eaten half that amount all by myself…but not this year!)

Let It Begin

Just yesterday I wrote about waiting…being patience and not in a rush.  Well, that was yesterday.  Today is Thanksgiving and it is time to let the season really get started!!!

It has been a wild and wooly year in oh, so many ways!!!  It’s been a crazy year economically, politically and in terms of weather and news stories.  It’s been a wild year for us personally as we moved to Georgia in December of 2011, then moved back to CA at the start of September.  We will be facing one more relocation soon…hopefully.  Not sure where yet, but hey…if we knew everything that was going to happen, it sure would take some of the pleasant surprises away from us!!!

The picture today doesn’t have anything to do with what kind of year it has been.  It was just a joyful looking scene that looks rather “holiday-ish” to me.  And so, with Thanksgiving turkey eaten and the holiday nearly over, let’s push on into the rest of what we call “the holiday season.”

I hope it will be a great and joyful time for you and yours.  What will the season and the coming year hold for us?  What is coming just around the corner?  As with this picture and the gravel drive that disappears, I don’t know…we’ll have to wait and see!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1842, when Mt. St. Helens in Washington erupted, it was the first time for which a specific date was known of a volcanic explosion in the United States.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: gold is only the 16th rarest of the chemical elements.


Winding Down

Life, as described by Solomon and experienced by all of us, has its cycles.  There are beginnings, middles and ends…and then there are new beginnings, new middles and ends…and so it goes.

Solomon described it well in Ecclesiastes and the Byrds took his words and put them to music in their song (written by Pete Seeger), Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything There Is a Season) that was popular when I was a kid.  The song also made an “appearance” in the movie, Forrest Gump.  It speaks of how there is a time to be born, a time to die, and everything in between:

“To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

“A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep…”

It holds true in every area of life: physically, emotionally – throughout human history.  Election cycles are called that because they’re cyclical.  The evaporation/rain cycle is the same.  The turning of the seasons are evidence of how things start up, exist, and wind down.

Right now this is beautifully displayed in the vineyards around us.  Harvest has taken place, but there are still vines with some grapes left on them.  The tiny buds and growing shoots of springtime gave way to lush greens and growing nodules of grapes that by fall had become the stuff of wine makers dreams.  Now, as November has settled in, the winding down of the vineyards is evident.  Today’s photo is evidence…even as there are still grapes, their time is nearly gone.  I’m grateful for the passing of the election, but sad to see the passing of the color and the total loss of leaves.  But, I suppose these things are necessary for there to be new growth and vitality come springtime.  Still, I’m a bit nostalgic.  I like the color…I like life.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1861, Jefferson Davis was elected to a six-year term as President of the Confederacy.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: alcoholics are twice as likely to confess their drinking addiction to a computer as they are to confess to a doctor, according to Wisconsin researchers.


In my opinion, nature is beautiful.  Yes, I know that it is at times “red in tooth and claw”.  But it is also beautiful – breathtakingly so.

No big commentary today, but I just loved the way this picture turned out.  Click on it a couple of times to “blow it up” to larger size and enjoy it.  I have.  This is better stuff than any human can create.  All we can do is stand back and suck in our breath in awe and delight.

Enjoy…and have a great weekend!!

I love this image!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1918 the armistice between the Allies and Germany was signed, ending WWI.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: the largest man-made geyser in the world is located opposite the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.  It reaches heights of 600 feet utilizing 800 hp pumps that discharge water at 200 feet per second.  The geyser can keep 1,100 gallons of water (weighing 9200 pounds) in the air at one time.

Late Summer in Alexander Valley

Isn’t it interesting how different people like different things?  Some people live for the hot summers around here.  They like to get out in the sun, go to the beach, work in the yard or vineyards, go on picnics or boating on Lake Sonoma.  Of course, here in Cloverdale, we’re about 20-25 miles (as the crow flies) to the coast, and almost every evening in the summer, the coastal fog will drift in and cool down the evenings deliciously!  Even I love the summer nights here in Cloverdale!

But, I’m not a summer kinda guy for the most part.  I’m an autumn guy, especially when we get to this time of October and lasting through December.  I know that in many places December is considered part of winter, but here it never really gets that cold, so I think of December being the end of fall.

On October 1, I was driving down a road southbound that runs parallel to highway 101 and I pulled over to take today’s picture.  For those who live in the frozen tundra of Alaska or other parts frequented by yetis, Kodiaks, reindeer and polar bears, I am fairly certain that your October 1 didn’t look like this.  Now, the scenery is changing as the grapes have been picked and the vines are starting to turn color.  You can’t see that happening in this picture, but in a couple weeks or so, I’ll try to get back to this same spot and take a similar picture showing the effects of fall here in Alexander Valley.

There can be no doubt: this is my favorite season here in the wine country!!!!!  (Of course, fall is my favorite season anywhere….how well I remember the crisp nights in Iowa as a young boy, the harvest moon rising in the east, the corn stalks broken and bent from the passing of the combines that harvested the golden kernels, the leaves on the ground…oh, I could go on and on!!!!)

Anyway, this is from October 1, 2011…all the vines were still green and loaded with fruit!

A lovely October 1st in Alexander Valley, Sonoma county, California

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1967, a musical opened on Broadway in New York that would run for 1,758 performances.  It started with these words: Gimme a head with hair, long beautiful hair…  Of course, the musical was named, Hair!

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: traditionally, Jewish babies are not named for a deceased relative.  The belief was that the “angel of death” might mistake the baby for the deceased and “collect” them!


Remember the child’s game of “Peek-a-boo”?  Usually, it was played by putting one’s hands over your eyes and then peeking out between their fingers while saying, “Peek-a-boo, I see you!” and the little one you were playing with giggled with delight!  I don’t know who had more fun with that game – me or my kids or grandkids.

Yesterday, Laurel and I needed a break and we went for a drive.  I’d not taken any pictures for quite a long time and I desperately was looking for something in this area to photograph.  The grape harvest has started and that means that the vines which have been picked have started to turn colors.  We’re a long way yet from the peak of color here in northern California’s wine country, but I did notice a few vines that had some color and that looked interesting.  I pulled the car to the side of the road, walked down the embankment and indulged myself by taking pictures.  I shot several of the vines from a distance (and you’ll probably see one or two of those in the next couple of days), but when I got up close and personal with one vine, I noticed a dried leaf hiding behind a screen of leaves that still had green in them.  I focused on that dry leaf (in the very center of the picture) and came up with this picture that I’m sharing with you today.  I felt that the leaf was playing hide-and-seek with me.  I hope you like it.

Peek-a-boo dried leaf, I see you!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: the comic strip, Peanuts, made its first appearance in nine newspapers.  It would go on to become, arguably, the most popular comic strip ever…and is still be published as re-runs to this day, even after the death of Charles Schultz, the late creator of the strip.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: bees can see ultraviolet light!

Hills of Mystery

There is just something about fog-shrouded mountains that is mysterious.  What is hidden behind those bands and pockets of fog?  Do dragons rest in lairs just out of sight?  Are 10-foot tall eagles concealed by the mists, waiting down swoop down and scoop up an unsuspecting human?  Was that a tyrannosaurus that was barely visible in that momentary break in the fog?

Nah.  But it’s fun to imagine, isn’t it?  As adults, we have lost much of the use of our imaginations.  We have cut our teeth on statements like, “Get real!”  What if I don’t want to get real?  What if I still want to believe in the Tooth Fairy and Cupid?

Well, of course, I know that there’s no real Tooth Fairy, but I do want to believe that from time to time people are still pierced through the heart by the arrows of the fat little cherub flitting nearby!

I took this shot on Saturday when the day was overcast and the fog was moving from north to south along the eastern side of the Alexander Valley.  Who knows what lurks behind those banks of fog?  Not me, but I’m sure that with a bit of imagination we could come up with something!

Hills of Mystery!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: In 1974, John Lennon appeared in concert for the last time at Madison Square Garden in NYC.  He joined with Elton John for renditions of “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Whatever Gets You Through the Night.”

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The US produces 19% of all the world’s trash.  Contributing to that number are annual disposal of 20 billion disposable diapers, 2 billion razors and 1.7 billion pens.

A Harvest Scene

Today is an overcast, rainy, foggy day in the Cloverdale environs.  Lots of folks think that cloudy days are not good day for photography, but in reality, it can be a great time to shoot!

One of the things I love about Cloverdale is the way fog snakes its tendrils through the hills around town.  Cloverdale sits in a tiny pocket that is known as the Alexander Valley.  Hills line both sides of the valley with Cloverdale nestled snugly on the western side of the Russian River.  We live about 4.5 miles outside of town on a hillside that looks down on some of the Alexander Valley vineyards.

On my way home today from helping to decorate the church for Christmas, the vineyards were golden-orange, the hills were playing gracious host to the aforementioned fog and I didn’t have my camera!  So, what is a guy to do?  I ran home and got it and took a gob of pictures of the hills.  Some of them turned out fine, but the photo that captured my attention was one I took out the passenger side window of my Toyota truck.  It is a scent of a vineyard irrigation pond with the vineyards and hills on the opposing side of the valley as a backdrop.  I thought it was worth sharing with you today.  I’ll probably share one with the hills and fog tomorrow.

A fall scene in Alexander Valley

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: Ross McWhirter, in 1975, was shot to death in his home by a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).  McWhirter was a co-editor and compiler of the Guinness Book of World Records.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The horned lizard from the American southwestern desert may squirt a small stream of blood from the corner of its eyes when it is frightened.