GUEST POST – TIME STACKING by Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero

I’ve been fascinated by time stacked images for some time now so it seemed like a great idea for a challenge. What is time stacking? Essentially it is a time lapse except all of the frames are layered on top of one another in just one image instead of creating a video. The technique is commonly used for astrophotography (star trails), car trails and waterfalls but it can also be use to create amazing landscape images.

Sunset - Time stacking example

Layering a series of landscape photos containing clouds gives a wonderful sense of movement to a landscape image. This image is a time stack of 56 photos taken 10 seconds apart. For colorful clouds, take photos of a sunset. (This technique won’t work very well at sunrise, so be sure to take photos at sunset if you want some color in your clouds.)

Wrath of a Thunderstorm

For those of you short on time or patience, you can use fewer photos in your time stack. This is just 15 photos taken 5 seconds apart. There are two elements that determine how smooth or jagged the movement in the clouds appears: (1) the amount of time between each shot and (2) how quickly the clouds are moving. If the clouds are moving quickly and you want a smooth look, you’ll need to take more photos. If the clouds are moving slowly, the interval between shots can be larger. Having said that, it’s nearly impossible to guess what your image will look like once all of the photos are stacked and that’s half the fun of it!

Time stacking example (29 photos)

Unfortunately, not everyone will have amazing clouds to photograph this week. Not to worry! In this photo my initial goal was to smooth out the water, but then I realized that I caught the gulls in flight as well. Not only did the size of the flock seem to grow, but their flight patterns in the sky seemingly appeared out of nowhere when I stacked the photos. This is a time stack of 29 photos taken in just 10 seconds, i.e. burst mode. (Note: If you want to try this technique with flying birds, you will need to find white birds or at least birds that are lighter than the sky behind them. It won’t work otherwise.) I included one of the photos used in the stacked image so that you can see the difference between a “normal” image and the stacked version of the same scene, particularly the water, the number of birds and the flight patterns of the birds in the sky.

Waterfall - Time stacking example

Another use of the time stacking technique is to fill out waterfalls or other moving water. If you find a waterfall that doesn’t have much water, you can make it look fuller by stacking a few photos together. Again I have provided both the stacked image (on top) and a single image from the stack. The difference is most visible in the water going over the large rock just to the left of center, but if you look closely you’ll see that the volume of water looks fuller throughout the stacked image.

Car trails - Time stacking example

Or you could stack a few photos of light trails from cars. It doesn’t take many photos to make a road look really busy! This image was created from four stacked photos.

Star trails - Time stacking example

And of course if you love astrophotography, this would be a great challenge to show off your skills with star trails. This image was created from three 15-minute exposures.

For more inspiration be sure to check out the amazing time stacked photos of Matt Molloy, a pioneer of using this technique for landscape photography: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjCgruXn (There is one of a smoke stack that I think is way cool!)


Taking the photos

  1. You’ll need a tripod. If you don’t have a tripod, you can search google for DIY tripods.
  2. For best results, use Manual Mode on your camera and set both the ISO and White Balance to something other than Auto. Basically you want all of the photos in your series to be taken with the exact same settings.
  3. Make sure your exposure it set to capture as much detail as possible in the lightest elements of your scene, i.e. don’t blow-out the highlights. It is the highlights that will be creating a pattern in your stacked image, so you want to capture as much detail in the light areas as possible.
  4. If you have an intervalometer feel free to use it, but for the purposes of this challenge I had just as much luck counting to 5 or 10 between my shots and taking the photos without an intervalometer. Regardless of the method you choose, be sure to be consistent with the time between each photo (especially for cloud photos – waterfalls and car trails are more forgiving).

Processing the photos

If you do not have Photoshop, I’ve put together a video tutorial explaining how to stack your photos in www.pixlr.com (a free online photo editor). The technique I show in the video should work with any photo editor as long as it supports layers and layer blending modes. I encourage you to watch it even if you have Photoshop since you might pick up a tip or two.

If you have Lightroom and Photoshop, there are numerous tutorials and videos available showing how to do time stacking.

In addition, Matt Molloy has written a tutorial explaining his technique at http://iso.500px.com/time-stack-photo-tutorial/. I encourage you to read through it for more details from his perspective.

When posting your photos this week, it would be fun to also post a single photo from your time stack as a comment so we can see the difference time stacking makes.


About the author: Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero is intensely curious about life and loves to explore it through the lens of her camera. She has dabbled in photography from time to time throughout her life, but it wasn’t until this past year when she took a semi-sabbatical from work that she decided to explore photography more seriously as a creative art form. Jeanie’s Flickr page can be found at www.flickr.com/photos/the-digital-jeanie/.




We’ve used traditional lighting techniques in previous portrait challenges. This time around I thought we could make things funky by using LIGHT PAINTING to enhance our portraiture.

Black Hole//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

The above image is the simple and clean approach. One source of light for the subject and the light painting effect.

Self Portrait 5//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Things can get crazier even with only one light source such as a laser. You’ll need a long exposure to work something this complex, but with very little practice this remains a very easy goal to attain. EXERCISE GREAT CARE WHEN USING LASERS ON SUBJECTS – AVOID POINTING LASERS DIRECTLY AT EYES – LASERS CAN PERMANENTLY DAMAGE EYES.

This quick beginner’s tutorial (VIDEO) should give you the basic tools to get started with this Challenge.

LightPainting Studio at BeatFilms//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

You can work with a mix of standard lighting and compliment your subject with light painting or go entirely using light painting as your light source. Although this is portrait challenge, don’t be afraid to experiment with close-up portraits or whole body images.

I wanna be...//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

You can also recreate an entirely new persona of your subject using multiple light sources of various colors.

A quick image search on Google will give you hundreds of examples to inspire your creativity : SEARCH GOOGLE


  1. USE EXTREME CAUTION and communicate well with your model to prevent eye injuries from light sources.
  2. You will need a tripod to keep your camera stable as these images are all going to be long exposures.
  3. A wireless remote trigger is always handy.
  4. You may even want to use an ND or Variable ND filter to make your exposures even longer. (Depends on your surroundings).
  5. Choose a dark location with the least amount of distractions. (Indoor or Outdoor).
  6. Experiment with different lights and colors. Don’t be afraid to add shapes and colored filters on your light sources.
  7. keep moving as you work the light painting to prevent appearing in the image.


This should be a great deal of fun and can even be a great family activity.


The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge.org or #photochallenge2016.
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • The posted image should be a photograph, not a video.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2016 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.




I’ve been putting a great deal of thought in this challenge and I figured I should make it a multi-level difficulty challenge. Meaning, the tools you have on hand at your disposal, I.E. Photoshop, plugins, etc…, will dictate how far you can take this challenge. Bare in mind that even if you don’t have all the tools, the basic challenge will still be challenging. The geographical location of each individual will also affect your decisions as to how you will shoot this challenge as the sky will be very different in the city compared to being lost in the middle of nowhere. With this in mind you will also be able to shoot a twilight or full night sky.

Milky Way goodness//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

My initial thought was to shoot something along the lines of this image above. Terrestrial features that show (illuminated or not) and stars. Because you usually shoot a starry sky at around 3200ISO, f/2.8 for like 20 to 30 seconds with like a 14mm to 24mm linear lens, you can only have crisp focus on the stars or your scenic features. This means you would have to shoot at least two images with different focus points and exposures. You then would have to blend them in Photoshop. You can even do photo-stacking to enhance the appearance of the stars even further with less noise. MAC users could use an app like Starry Landscape Stacker to get the job done even more efficiently. For the rest of us we have to do this in Photoshop by masking out the foreground completely from each shot, aligning the images, combining them all into a Smart Object and using the “median” stack mode for the Smart Object.

Heavens Above//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

If you can produce an image like one of the two images above, you’ve outdone yourself for this challenge.

'Last Stop Lights' - Mosfell, Iceland//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Some of us may also be lucky enough to get some northern lights in…

Sydney Harbour reflections//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Due to light pollution, pollution and clouds, especially around the city, many of us will have to settle for something a little more down to earth. It’s important to get more than a dark sky, so try and shoot during twilight, before the Sun rises or after it sets. Just like on a starry night, your White Balance is always important to get the colors right.

Bridge to the City//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

If there are no smashing colors in your sky, try and take advantage of cloud texture to compliment your sky and your scenery. Shooting multiple exposures to create an HDR image will probably be your best bet in an urban setting.

LoL (Light on Louvre)//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Remember, the moon can also be our friend, so take advantage of your surroundings and the night sky.


Tips, tricks and necessities…

  • TRIPOD:  You will need a tripod or an improvised idea to keep your camera steady at every exposure
  • REMOTE TRIGGER: Definitely want to use a remote to trigger your camera or use the timer. If using a remote, use MIRROR UP to maximize stability.
  • APPS: You can use smartphone or computer applications to calculate where your celestial objects will be.
  • COMPASS: If you’re looking for North, a compass may be your best bet…
  • FOCUS: Night time focus may be difficult and your lens at infinity may just not be at infinity. I suggest you manually focus, especially if you have a live view with a zoom feature.
  • LIGHTS: Bring a light that also has a RED BEAM. Using a RED BEAM instead of white light will keep your eyes adapted to the darkness and you won’t be totally disoriented when you turn off your light source. You may also want to bring a bright flashlight to illuminate your foreground in a light painting type effect.
  • FILTERS: I found that filters tend to mess up northern lights or some types of night photography. You may want to remove your clear or UV filter when shooting at night.
  • RAW: It’s always better to shoot RAW for post processing of night time images, especially with stars.
  • NOISE: If you haven’t yet, you may find it useful to apply some type of noise removal. You can get a trial of many different Noise Removal tools online.

I never shoot alone, especially at night. Make sure you feel 100% safe before venturing out into the unknown. If you’re going to go out into the wilderness to complete your challenge, please educate yourself on all the harmful plants and wildlife you may encounter. When in doubt, trust your gut feeling.

To complete your challenge you will need a scenic image with a night sky that contains stars, clouds, illumination, etc… No daytime skies… Your scenery can be dark as a silhouette or it can also be illuminated. The possibilities are truly endless.


The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge.org or #photochallenge2016.
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • The posted image should be a photograph, not a video.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2016 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.





First and foremost, I want to wish you all a Wonderful New Year and a BIG THANK YOU for being part of the 2016 PhotoChallenge.

Here it is, my first PhotoChallenge of the year. Keeping up with my traditional Outdoor Photography themes, I’ll be bringing a multitude of different techniques to apply in both urban and natural settings. As you all know by now, every 4th 2016 PhotoChallenge will be a guest post from one of you. You’re all welcome to volunteer and contact me with your contribution to become one of our next Guest Challengers.

Snowy Winter Scenes are a real challenge on this El Niño year. Suisse Romande, the western French speaking part of Switzerland has yet to accumulate any snow in the lower elevations. Montreal, Canada had no snow for Christmas and this weekend the temps are above freezing. Winter snow storms are translating into torrential downpours.  Southern California has been anything but sunny.

For this second PhotoChallenge of the year, I decided to get us to photograph a point of view from under a bridge. One, it will keep the rain off our heads. Second, it’s challenging from a composition point of view. The true challenge remains lighting. It’s generally darker under the bridge than it is out in the open. Since I want you to include parts of the bridge’s understructure, I’m making this an HDR PhotoChallenge.

Steve Troletti Photography: PICTURE OF THE DAY / PHOTO DU JOUR &emdash;

I chose to photograph my PhotoChallenge image above with a full-frame fisheye lens. Your perspective will vary greatly depending on the focal length of the lens you choose. I added an extra ounce of challenge by including the bright soon to set Sun piercing through the clouds in my image.  I also applied a little defishing to the final image to give it a more linear feel.


As illustrated by my RAW Image Thumbnails above, I initially shot 10 images each at 1.5 stops interval. This allows me to get some detail in the bright sunlit areas to the poorly lit underparts of the bridge. In post processing I selected only 5 of the 10 images, those I felt gave me the range I needed to get the most out of every area of my composition. To keep things simple I used LightRoom’s HDR merge and completed to final image adjustments in Photoshop. Third Party dedicated HDR software will give you a much higher image quality. On the flip side, you can use the built in HDR features of your camera or smartphone as in the image below.


To complete this challenge I highly suggest you use a tripod. Even when using the built in HDR camera functions, stability is your best friend. Your image will need to illustrate a landscape/cityscape style view from under a bridge. It must also include elements of the underparts of a bridge’s structure. Depending on your focal length you may end up slightly next to the bridge. Please be careful not to put yourself in arms way of falling objects. Remember snow plows also clear bridges projecting snow to either side.

I want to stress that for the 2016 PhotoChallenge, we’re emphasizing taking your time to properly compose and capture your scene. This is meant to be photography, not a snapshot session. The final result should be a well composed image with well balanced light that is pleasing to the eye. Don’t be afraid to experiment with manual settings, different apertures and shutter speeds. In the right circumstances, long exposures can add a dramatic effect.

Here are some inspiring examples found on Flickr

HDR Photo of a Lifeguard Tower on Singer Island//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js


Elisabeth Bridge//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge.org and #photochallenge2016.
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • The posted image should be a photograph, not a video.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2016 Photo Challenge is fun and easy.

2013 Challenge, Week 41 : SILHOUETTE

Many photographers use the technique of photographing people, objects or landscape elements against the light, to achieve an image in silhouette. The light might be natural, such as a sunset or an open doorway, a technique known as contre-jour or it might be contrived in a studio (low-key lighting). Silhouetting occurs when there is a lighting ratio of 16:1 or greater. The exposure is set for the background, usually with an aperture at 9–11 and a shutter speed around 120–200.

Silhouette - Dancing on hay...One of the easiest ways to get back lighting for your silhouette work is by using the naturally bright light from a setting sun as I did in this image taken in a hay field in France.


Bright light reflecting off of water will help you create the silhouette effect for waterborne objects and animals such as these geese.

9th Floor Silhouette

Well lit doorways and windows are another great way to achieve a dramatic looking silhouette effect.

Silhouetted Kaz

You don’t need direct sunlight from a setting sun. In this case a brightly lit mid-day sky is all it took to provide the necessary light to create the silhouette of a dog.

Let your imagination run wild and show us your best silhouette image of the week.

Participating in the 2013 Photo Challenge is fun and easy. Post and share your images with the Photo Challenge Community on  Google+, Facebook,or Flickr.

July Challenge

A melancholy angle of light

So it’s been a month since we finished the April and May Challenges, back-to-back. I kinda felt bored with my photography in June. Not only did I not get much done, I didn’t get out and shoot very much.

Now, I know that I need to take a break from the monthly challenges, occasionally. Every other month is the best pattern. I get a month to rest and develop the next exciting challenge, then off we go! Shooting all month long then becomes exciting and fun. Seeing what you’re all doing only challenges me even more. So far we’ve shot daily challenges and weekly challenges. We’ve even done one in the middle. I’d say that I actually prefer the daily challenges. It gets me out and shooting on a regular basis. Making the effort every day isn’t really that hard. When we’ve shot weekly, I find that I procrastinate until the end of the week, and I come up with lower quality work.

So, we’re going to shoot daily, again. Don’t like it? Too bad! (he, he)

For July, I want you to go out there and shoot all the lighting fixtures that you can find. Shoot desk lamps and floor lamps. Shoot street lights and head lights. Shoot flood lamps and brake lights.

I’m looking for you to capture the actual light. The fixture is also important, but don’t forget the light it produces. I’d prefer for the light to be lit, but this isn’t a requirement. I’m not interested in what the light is illuminating. That’s not the focus of this challenge. I want us all to grow in our ability to manipulate how we capture the actual light being cast. I’ll follow up this post pointing you in the direction of some sound wisdom about how to do just this.

Below are a few ideas to get you started. I found them with a little search work on Flickr.

We’ll shoot one a day, all month long, for July, 2008. I want new photographs. Make sure to tag your submissions correctly…

  • “photochallenge”
  • “julychallenge2008”
  • “photochallenge.org”