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/.




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.


Just had a photographer friend of mine, Eric Constantineau, give a conference at the Montreal Camera Club. It was on Night Photography and Long Exposures. I guess you can all figure out where the inspiration for this week’s Challenge came from.

For this week’s challenge, we’re combining both the night aspect and the long exposures. The reduced light from dusk on makes it easier to get nice long exposures. Anything from stars to automobile lights come to life. A tripod will be necessary to stabilize your camera. A polarized filter or/and a light ND filter wlil help depending on the light conditions.

Steve Troletti Photography: Winter Festivals / Festivals d'hiver &emdash; Ferris Wheel / La Grande Roue

My personal favorite, Ferris Wheels in motion at night. You’ll have to shoot in manual mode. I like to work with 30 second exposures as it gives plenty of time to get plenty of action in front of the lens. I always shoot at my camera’s native ISO to reduce noise in long exposures. Pay attention not to over expose lights as you will loose details in those areas. In this case the long exposure also minimized the appearance of individuals walking by.

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

For the sake of clarity and sharpness, I never recommend completely stepping down your lens. However the more you do the more you will get a star-shape effect from fixed lighting. At first glance this image may not seem like a very long exposure. It’s a 2 minute long exposure. We can see a stream of car lights above the water line. The real catch, thousands of Snow Geese are swimming along in front of me in the water. Except for a white smudgy texture they’re completely gone due to the long exposure time.

Berlin Night

The hustle and bustle of city life offers constant movement by night. From the rotating advertisement cylinder, to the bus light trails and the movement of the clouds, this image has multiple aspects of captured motion.


//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsSurprise! Another Fireworks Shot!   Fireworks themselves are captured with long exposures. Although a relatively short, long exposure, will give you amazing results, a much longer controlled exposure allows you to capture multiple facets of a fireworks presentation onto one image. Keep your shutter open in BULB mode. Cover your lens with a black hat or other object. I use a cut down neoprene bottle cooler. Uncover the lens for just the parts you want exposed and cover it up again when you don’t want your scene exposed.     Light Painting 008   Naturally night time long exposures wouldn’t be complete without Light Painting. I would recommend flashlights over the above technique of twirling burning steel wool. If you choose to do so, please read up on all the safety concerns and don’t leave home without a fire extinguisher. Use all the protective gear you may need as this stuff burns clothing, skin, hair and eyes. If you’ve never done this before, I suggest you attend a workshop first. As you can see the possibilities are truly limitless. With the days getting shorter in the Northern Hemisphere and not too long in the Southern Hemisphere, this is the perfect time of year to practice your night photography.  

This will be more of an interpretive challenge leaving the door wide open to your imagination. To complete your challenge your image will have to have been taken at night and demonstrate an effect such as movement from the long exposure.



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 #photochallenge2015.
  • 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 2015 Photo Challenge is fun and easy.

2013 Challenge, Week 51: Bokeh

Last week we got to focus on light and try out light painting. This week we’ll feature light and the effects of the aperture, but the emphasis will be on the out-of-focus area of the picture. This week’s theme is Bokeh.

Bokeh is a Japanese word that refers to the blur-quality of a lens or photograph. It’s most noticeable in night shots where lights are out-of-focus, but any shot with a short depth-of-field will have areas where you see the bokeh, especially if light is coming through the background.

“Bokeh Overlord” by Patrik B

Bokeh doesn’t just refer to blur, it’s the quality of the blur, and that quality changes from lens to lens. There are plenty of examples of bokeh around the Internet. If you want to learn a little more about it, Nikon has a good article with nice examples. And there’s always Wikipedia.

“Bokeh Effect” by Andrew Abogado

One of the reasons I choose Bokeh as the theme for this week is because there are plenty of Christmas lights around at night to use as subjects.  You can start indoors…

“Bokeh Ninja” by Nick Harris

Then move outside.

“bokeh” by Janne Hellsten
“Bokeh Season” by Alejandro C

If you do choose to shoot at night, be sure to grab a tripod. During the day you can get great bokeh shots without a tripod, but at night with the slow shutter speeds, a tripod is essential.

You can even get creative and create custom bokehs with stencils. The shape of the aperture is what determines the bokeh shape, so if you put a stencil on your lens, your bokeh with be the same shape. This example uses a heart shaped stencil and results in a heart shaped bokeh.

“Shaped Bokeh Test” by Gianmaria Veronese

As an extra challenge, see if you can come up with a custom bokeh by creating your own stencils. If you’re not the DIY type, Bokeh Masters has few kits available. With Christmas this week, you might not be able to get one shipped in time for this week’s challenge, but it would be a good investment for future use.

As always, post your shots on Facebook, Google+, or Flickr. Happy shooting!

2013 Challenge, Week 50: Light Painting

“Light Painting” by Josh Hawley

I’ve been saving this challenge for the time of year with the longest nights, because once you try it, you will want to do more of it!

“Blood Is In My Heart Again” by Thomas Hawk

Light painting is a technique that involves long exposures and the introduction of additional light sources throughout the exposure. The results you will get depend on the lighting used. In the first example, the photographer lit steel wool on fire and spun it around, producing a shower of sparks. In the second example, the photographer used colored gels over a flashlight to paint the walls with color during the exposure.

“Knapp’s Castle, Electrified” by Toby Keller

To experiment with this technique, you will need a camera that is capable of doing long exposures. If your camera has a Shutter Speed Priority mode, you may be able to set the time to several minutes. If your camera has a Bulb mode, you can use it to keep the shutter open longer. Other cameras may have a night mode which will keep the shutter open.

“The Garden Sheds” by Simon & His Camera

Once you have the shutter open, start adding light. If you keep moving, you will not be visible in the photo, but the light will show up. With some practice, you can write words and draw images with the light.

by Illum

With some patience, you can make 3D objects with light that appear to float delicately on the landscape.

“Train Track Light Sphere” by Conrad Kuiper

Anything that produces light can be used to paint the scene. Here are some suggestions:

  • A flashlight
  • A flashlight covered by colored plastic (gels)
  • Your phone
  • Laser pointers
  • Fire (but be careful)
  • Fireworks, such as sparklers (but don’t break any laws)
  • LED’s
  • EL wire
“Phone Call From Hell” by Jeremy Brooks

This is one of the more challenging themes, and it can take some time to get satisfactory results. But it is a lot of fun to do! This is a challenge that you can involve other people in as well. Get your friends to bring lights, and paint the scene together. The image you see above was lit by several people. It’s a fun way to collaborate with both photographers and non-photographers.

As always pick your best shot and share with the Photo Challenge Community. 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.

Now set aside a couple of nights this week, and get out and shoot!

2013 Challenge, Week 6: Night

Welcome to the sixth week of the 2013 Challenge!

This week, we will get out and shoot after the sun goes down. Some of you have probably done some night shooting before, but if you have not, you are in for a treat! Familiar subjects look different at night. Slower shutter speeds or larger apertures are required, resulting in lines of light or starry lights and beautiful out of focus highlights in the background.

“Time Machine” by mugley

In order to make an image at night, you need to find a way to get enough light into the camera. To do this, you can either leave the shutter open longer, use a wider aperture, or add light with a flash, a flashlight, or some other means. If your camera has a shutter speed adjustment, put the camera on a tripod or steady surface, set the shutter speed, and try a few shots. If you don’t have a way to adjust the shutter speed directly, just let the camera do the work. Many point-and-shoot cameras that do not have manual shutter adjustments will adjust themselves and use a slower shutter speed or a larger aperture at night. Your camera may also have a scene setting that tells the camera you are trying to take a photo at night.

“Untitled” by Georges Petrequin

Because of the longer exposure time, the camera is more prone to show some shake from pushing the shutter button. To eliminate this problem, you can use a remote shutter release cable, or you can use the self-timer feature on your camera.

“El bosque de los dioses” by Iván Sánchez

If you think of night photography as long exposure light trails, this is your chance to try something different. Try making a landscape photograph, lighting the area with a flashlight. Or try a portrait at night, capturing your subject by candlelight or silhouetted against the lights in the background. Or you could go completely abstract by using camera motion or a deliberately blurry focus.

“Shopping street in the night rain” by tanakawho

As always, have fun with the theme! Take the opportunity to get out there and experiment. Let’s not forget that we’re posting just one single selection per theme, to our various online locations; Google+Facebook, and/or Flickr. That’s one final photo, posted to the different places.

Also, please do not feel compelled to go back and shoot the themes you’ve missed, whether you got busy or just joined us. That ends up cluttering the various groups’ newsfeeds with past week’s posts, this week. By all means, challenge yourself! And if you want to go back and shoot the themes you missed, that’s fine. But post them on your blog and to your social media profiles. Help us keep the groups and communities focused each week on the appropriate theme.

If you tag your photos with metadata, please use “2013photochallenge”.

Now take an afternoon nap, then get out there at night and make some photographs!