This is the Best Photo Ever Shot of a Star Other Than Our Sun
Astronomers using the ESO Very Large Telescope have created the most detailed photo ever of a star other than our own Sun. The subject of the photo is the supergiant Antares, visible to the unaided eye in the constellation Scorpius.
“To the unaided eye the famous, bright star Antares shines with a strong red tint in the heart of the constellation of Scorpius (The Scorpion),” the ESO writes. “It is a huge and comparatively cool red supergiant star in the late stages of its life, on the way to becoming a supernova.”
Antares has 12 times the mass of the Sun and a diameter 700 times larger. Here’s an artist rendering of what the star might actually look like:
The team of astronomers was led by Keiichi Ohnaka of Chile’s Universidad Católica del Norte. They used the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI), which can combine light gathered from four different telescopes to create the equivalent view of a telescope with a 200-meter mirror. This setup allows scientists to see details that are currently impossible to capture with a single telescope.
The team’s findings have been published in the scientific journal Nature.
Camera on Balloon Captures the Total Solar Eclipse from Near Space
Self-proclaimed “armchair aeroscience geek” Liem Bahneman managed to capture the Great American Eclipse from an unusual and amazing perspective: he loaded cameras onto a high-altitude and shot what the total solar eclipse looks like from the edge of space. The 9-minute video above is what one camera recorded over Central Oregon.
Bahneman used a total of four cameras on his near space stratospheric balloon: three still cameras (including a Ricoh Theta 360) and a GoPro shooting video.
He launched the balloon shortly before totality pass over the state. As you’ll see in the video, the cameras were able to capture the shadow of the moon creeping across the land and plunging everything into darkness for minutes during totality. At around 5 and 7 minutes, you can hear the sounds of jets flying over the mountains below.
“This is the edited video, showing launch, the shadow of totality passing, and the last 40 seconds or is the last of the footage before the battery died,” Bahneman writes.
Humans of New York to be Made into a Facebook TV Show
The massively popular photo blog Humans of New York is getting a 30-minute episodic TV series on Facebook’s recently launched “Facebook Watch” platform.
Brandon Stanton, the creator of HoNY, announced the deal on Facebook, saying that he has been filming content for the past 4 years with the help of cinematographer Michael Crommett. Over that time, they have amassed a collection of over 1200 interviews, which they will be turning in to a television show.
“Early on I realized that video would add a deeper layer to Humans of New York,” Stanton writes. “At the heart of all these posts are the conversations themselves. I’m often deeply moved by the people I meet. Or they make me laugh. Or they make me think. And I always do my best to recreate the experience through photos and words. But I always knew that video would provide the closest thing to ‘actually being there.’”
The show is set to take the Humans of New York concept, which Stanton began on his own blog back in 2010, to a more global audience. It will launch next week on Facebook Watch, but for now you can watch the trailer above, or find more info at the HoNY Facebook page.
Lightning Strikes Feet Away from Man While His Camera is Rolling
A man in Norway has captured what it’s like to have a lightning bolt strike just feet away. Watch the 1.5-minute video above to see the terrifying experience from his perspective (warning: turn your speakers down because it’s extremely loud).
TV 2 reports that on Monday, 38-year-old Daniel Modøl was standing on his terrace in Gjerstad, Aust-Agder, and shooting lightning flashing in the horizon. Without warning, there was a deafening crack as a lightning bolt struck less than 20 feet away on the other side of the terrace.
While the bolt itself wasn’t caught on camera, we do see rocks and dirt flying through the air and a smoldering spot piece of ground.
Modøl wisely decided that he wouldn’t stay outside to see if he could catch a second close strike on camera. He immediately headed for cover indoors, where he found his ceiling fan off and burn marks around an electrical outlet where his modem was.
Nikon D850 Has Same Image Quality at Double the ISO as the D810: Report
The Nikon D850 has generated a considerable amount of excitement among photographers today after its announcement, and here’s a new fact that will add even more fuel to the frenzy: Nikon says the D850 should have the same image quality at double the ISO as the D810.
“Nikon told us that the D850 should produce the same image quality (both JPEG and RAW) at twice the ISOs as the D810, a full-stop improvement,” Imaging Resource writes. “That is, the D850 at its top ‘native’ ISO of 25,600 should deliver the same image quality as the D810 did at ISO 12,800. If true, that’s a pretty significant improvement.”
“Nikon says dynamic range will be as good or better than that of the D810, despite the higher pixel count.”
Only tests will be able to determine if these claims are true, but if they are, this is a huge boon for photographers who often work in low-light environments.
Nikon also revealed to Imaging Resource that the new backside-illuminated (BSI) sensor design in the D850 — the first in a Nikon DSLR — isn’t primarily for low-light performance but rather for speedier shooting speed by providing “more flexibility in the chip’s wiring.”
And if you’ve been wondering about the origins of this new sensor, you’ll be interested to know that Nikon designed it themselves rather than use an off-the-shelf sensor from a sensor manufacturer (e.g. Sony).
“While Nikon contracts with a silicon foundry to actually manufacture the chips, Nikon confirmed that the D850’s sensor is entirely their own design,” Imaging Resource reports.
Nearly every professional studio I’ve ever used has these “polyboards” and you‘ve probably even seen them yourself but may not have known what they’re used for. Polyboards are polystyrene boards that usually measure 4 feet wide by 8 feet high and are normally 2 inches thick. One of the other defining characteristics is that they are often white on one side and black on the other.
This dual color is very important as this gives them two key uses. The white side is used for bouncing light back into the shadows of an image, for example, a light would be placed on one side of the model and a white polyboard on the other side of them. The light would illuminate one side and the polyboard would fill in the shadows from the other side providing a very beautifying light.
The black side is used for the opposite reason, to reduce the bounce of light. In certain situations in a big white studio, your lighting can bounce around and result in the lighting on the model looking quite flat and uninteresting. By placing black polybords either side of your subject can help sculpt shape and form by adding shadows where there was none before.
For your reference, ‘polyboards’ can be purchased under the name of polystyrene sheets from DIY and hardware stores under the insulation section. An 8-by-4-foot board is 2400mm by 1200mm. You also want to watch out for the thickness. We’ll be using them for a purpose that they aren’t intended for so you need to purchase a thickness that is substantial enough to hold its own weight when upright. I recommend a 2-inch-thick sheet and that translates to 50mm.
Making it Stand Up
Polyboards are primarily used in the construction industry for insulation, as a result, they’re relatively cheap to buy. When you buy them, they normally arrive bright white on both sides so the first step is to paint one side black. But the biggest issue with them is not painting them but getting them to stand up. Normally this is quite costly as purpose built metal stands need to be purchased. But here’s a far cheaper hack that works perfectly: a simple bike stand.
In the above image, you’ll see a single bike stand that holds your polyboards upright perfectly and very cheaply. Just make sure it’s at least 2 inches wide and you’re all set.
Using it On Location
But what if you want the benefits of a polyboard but you’re on the move and working on location? Obviously bringing an 8-foot by 4-foot sheet of polystyrene is hardly very practical so here’s a mobile alternative. Simply use a large white reflector and attach it to a light stand via a couple of multi-purpose clamps and brackets.
No matter how big or small the job, I always carry around these handy clamps and they come in especially handy here. Simply take your light stand, put an umbrella bracket at right angles on top and then attach a spring loaded clamp onto that. This will now hold your reflector firmly in place.
Desperate Times, Desperate Measures
When things get really desperate and you don’t even have a large reflector with you, then a simple white sheet can be utilized to just as good effect. Any white sheet will do and by simply screwing a small crab-clamp atop your light stand and then getting that in turn to hold a crossbar (any pole or even broom-handle will do), you can then simply clip your sheet to that and you’re ready to shoot.
The white sheet can be anything from a large sheet of white cotton fabric to a simple bed sheet.
And here’s a pro tip: remember that these mobile ‘polyboard’ alternatives can be implemented with the black variations. Most reflectors now come with a black flip-side and that can be clipped in place instead of the white side. Also, if you’re after a black alternative to the white sheet, I recommend black cotton velvet.
This fabric soaks up more light than anything else and I will often use this fabric in a studio environment over the black polyboards as it’s so good at reducing bounced light.
You can see me using the black velvet sheets on stands here in a studio to heavily control the bounce of light:
In large white spaces like studios, the light will keep bouncing around the walls, floor, and ceiling which can leave your lighting looking flat. You should be able to see here on the final image that there is very soft beautiful light on the models face but there are still strong shadows on the sides of her face to give depth and shape.
About the author: Jake Hicks is an editorial and fashion photographer based in Reading, UK. He specializes in keeping the skill in the camera and not just on the screen. Hicks has also just announced his first ever U.S. workshops in September 2017. If you’d like to learn more about his incredibly popular gelled lighting and post-pro techniques, visit this link for more info. You can find more of his work and writing on his website, Facebook, 500px, Instagram, Twitter, and Flickr. This article was also published here.
This Guy Shot the Solar Eclipse with a Game Boy Camera
During the Great American Eclipse, while most photographers worried about camera settings and solar filters, Redditor zhx decided to bust out a Game Boy Camera, which was introduced in 1998 and features a 128×128 pixel CMOS sensor.
Here’s the photo, captured from Portland, Oregon:
The solar eclipse actually takes up a very small portion of the frame, and the dark circle is a halo effect from the corona around the moon.
Here’s a photo of the camera kit zhx used:
The camera is so old that working with the resulting files isn’t exactly easy and straightforward. Here’s zhx’s explanation for how he got the photo off his Game Boy Camera:
I shot it on my backlit DMG [Game Boy], then I use the Interact Mega Memory card on my Pocket (the camera doesn’t fit in the DMG with the Mega Memory) and back the SAV file up to the Mega Memory. Then I plug my USB 64M cart into the MM and restore the file to that, which I can then plug into my computer and retrieve (I use EMS-Qart for that part). Then I can open the SAV file in either GBCamera Dump or this site which provides a pretty drag-and-drop front end for this task. I then typically enlarge the BMPs in Photoshop and export to PNG.
Shutterstock’s Randomized Watermark Protects Photos from Google’s AI
Google recently published a paper showing how easy it is for a computer to detect an identical watermark from a large collection of photos and then cleanly remove that watermark from each photo. Shutterstock has responded to Google’s AI by developing a new randomized watermark that counters it.
Google’s research found that many common stock watermarks can be removed since they appear identically across a huge number of online photos.
Shutterstock was actually notified about the search before the paper was published, and its engineers began working on a way to fix the flaws that Google researchers uncovered. Google’s conclusion was that to prevent computers from being able to easily isolate a watermark, you need to introduce random variations to your watermark. That’s exactly what Shutterstock decided to do.
“The challenge was protecting images without degrading the image quality,” Shutterstock CTO Martin Brodbeck says. “Changing the opacity and location of a watermark does not make it more secure, however changing the geometry does.”
Engineers developed a new watermark randomizer that results in no two Shutterstock watermarks ever being exactly the same now.
“The shapes vary per image and include contributor names,” Brodbeck says. “By creating a completely different watermark for each image, it makes it hard to truly identify the shape.”
Here’s what the standard Shutterstock watermark looked like prior to this new technology being rolled out:
And here’s what the new watermark looks like:
This new random watermark has been rolled out to all of Shutterstock’s 150 million+ photos and images. Google engineers already tested the new watermarks and found that they successfully foil Google’s watermark removal AI system.
This Eclipse Photo Shows the Power of Shooting RAW
Here’s an eye-opening example that shows the power of shooting RAW. Photographer Dan Plucinski captured a beautiful photo of the solar eclipse yesterday, and this is the before-and-after comparison showing the straight-out-of-camera image (on left) compared to the edited one (on right).
Plucinski got to the location in Oregon at 6am and set up for his shot. During totality, Plucinski shot exposure bracketed photos using his Nikon D750. This photo was captured without a filter at f/11, 1/8s, and ISO 100:
But this photo didn’t accurately capture what the human eye could see. To correct that, Plucinski did some minimal editing on the shot to bring out details in the shadows. Since he was working with a RAW file, there was quite a bit of detail to be recovered. Here’s what his photo looked like after the exposure tweak:
“The ‘fog’ is actually from the French and Whitewater wild fires,” Plucinski tells PetaPixel. “I bracketed my shots with the intention of using HDR, but after seeing how many recomposed images went viral, I just loved the authenticity of a single exposure like this.”
“It’s unbelievable, but that’s how it actually looked in person.”
DJI Will Disable Your Spark Drone If You Don’t Update the Firmware
DJI is releasing a new firmware update for the Spark camera drone, and this is one update that Spark owners will not want to ignore. If you fail to properly update your Spark, DJI will disable it and prevent it from flying at all.
But while the GoPro Karma’s issues were caused by a faulty physical battery clasp, the DJI Spark’s problem appears to be software based and something that can be remedied with a firmware update.
DJI announced today that the new firmware “enhances flight safety and performance” by improving the “battery management system to optimize power supply during flight.”
The firmware will be available later this week through the DJI GO4 App on smartphones and through the DJI Assistant 2 desktop program. Failure to comply will lead to your drone being grounded remotely by DJI.
“If the firmware of either the aircraft or the battery is not updated by September 1, Spark will not be able to take off,” the company says. “DJI decided on the option of a mandatory firmware update in order to maximize flight safety and product reliability which we consider as top priorities.”
Other secondary improvements in the new firmware include full integration with DJI Goggles, an optimized PalmLaunch function, improved QuickShot Dronie control accuracy, and better remote controller compatibility with new firmware updates.