Category: Information

18th January 2018 – Keynsham Photographic Centre Come A Visitin’

A most compelling evening (well if you are a camera club member) had courtesy of Keynsham Photographic Centre. Simon and Neil took us through papers, sizes and types of processes KPC offer and their knowledge and enthusiasm went a long way to explaining why KPC is a destination of choice of so many serious photographers here-abouts. Around 2 in 3 of those present were already users but we all had something new to learn about the services they offer, which are quite extensive. I have always found them to be helpful and friendly and I am happy to pass on a recommendation to use them.

 

Why print? There is an emotional and a logical answer to this. The emotional one is that we do seem to react differently to a print than to a projected image or one on a phone or other screen. This is certainly the case with the written word. With pictures it might be an age thing, with those of us of a certain maturity having an emotional tie to what we started with, the family albums and so on, but as these are family history it is not uncertain that these emotions are passed on. It might be the way we view what is art. Even slides are, these days, often rendered digital. Prints have a longevity that digital files cannot match.

 

The logical one is more existential. Our photographs aren’t photographs until they are printed. They are computer files that are capable of being rendered as images given the right, seldom very cheap, equipment. To that extent they are, at best, semi permanent records. They exist not as pictures but as 1’s and 0’s and that makes them vulnerable to damage, loss and redundancy in many different ways.

 

One of the questions that came up in discussions was the notion of the minimum resolution (pixels per inch or PPI) as a ratio to print size that is compatible with a reasonable quality print. In order to look at this we need to look at and differentiate between two measurements that the computer file we turn into a picture holds – and which can be reset via (photo editing) software. The first is Pixels Per Inch and the second is Dots Per Inch, or as we will refer to them PPI and DPI.

 

There is a previous post dedicated to this and a good start if your interest is more than passing. Essentially the PPI is a measure of the resolution of the computer file when shown on a screen and the DPI a measure of the resolution that a printer will reproduce the computer file as a digital print. They are not the same thing, they are not interchangeable, the connection between them is that you cannot use DPI to overcome low resolution in the PPI. That might not seem like much of a connection but it is a common error, at least it is a common misunderstanding.

 

Just as one is not strictly reliant on another there is an optimum setting for both, but it is not a single magic number or formula. This is because different manufacturers of camera sensors and printers construct their wares in slightly different ways to slightly different priorities. The only rock solid constant you can apply is garbage in garbage out aka GIGO. What doesn’t help is that there are always going to be subjective elements to the ideas of output and acceptable, but we can set these aside.

 

A slight diversion, but one that is worth taking, is the purpose for which we are taking our images in the first place. The digital age has brought with it a number of outlets that, even 20 years ago, were pipedreams or even unimaginable to most photographers. Film cameras would enjoy their predominance for another 10 years in the “serious” and professional markets. A decent living could still be made from stock photography. These days there are far more outlets and they demand different things of the data files they publish. What remains is the fact that proper prior planning prevents poor photography. Start with the end in mind and choose formats etc accordingly.

 

The argument for recording images in camera RAW is that all the information is left in. The argument for JPEG is its universality and space saving compression. The fact is you can shoot in both and convert your final image from RAW to JPEG or any other format (has to be some other format as you cannot save in RAW). In your final version of the image is the information that other devices are going to use to present your image, including colour space, PPI and a whole lot else. The point here is that you are going to have to make, or let programme defaults make, these decisions to determine the look of your output (as best you can).

 

So, long way round to the answer we were looking for but the fact remains, that for all the reasons above, there simply is no answer to the question of a ratio of file resolution to print size because Pixels are not the same size on all cameras – 24 mega pixels on a 35mm sized sensor take up more space than 24 mega pixels on an APSC sensor. There are approximations, guidelines and above all, experience. Let’s look at rules of thumb, but first a caveat.

 

Pixel peaking, the urge to zoom to the maximum and suck the teeth at the lack of relative clarity, is neither helpful nor useful, outside of certain photographic publications desperate for some comparators in a world where you really have to go some to find a “bad” lens or sensor. It’s the aggregate of the pixels used that we view and a badly composed photograph is a badly composed photograph regardless of the amount of money you have spent or your equipment’s DXO rating. We are here looking at making a print of what you have got, regardless of your motive to print it.

 

Lets first talk of PPI. Smaller sized prints, say up to 10 x 8 (ish) we can get a reasonable print at 125 ppi. That is to say at arm’s length it’s going to look OK. Press your nose against it or use a magnifying glass it is going to look pretty rubbish. I have to say that such a view point rather spoils the whole point as, again you are looking at the aggregate of the pixels after all, or as I like to call it, “The picture”. This is a fall-back position only, If your default is 72ppi (i.e. it’s designed to show up on your computer or phone screen) then you are not going to get much above a 6 x 4, maybe 7 x 5 at a pinch, out of it (feel free to prove me wrong because you are only going to find out by using your  combination of equipment and the printer you choose). The best lies between 200 and 300 ppi, by more or less common agreement. KPC ask for 305 PPI. Basically of you use the 300 end of the range you are likely to be close to the optimum for most commercial printers at standard sizes. Refer to your supplier for the necessary information. To change images PPI we use editing software like Lightroom, Gimp or Affinity.

 

But we were looking for a rule of thumb. Any minimum figure is a result of the combination of equipment particulars and specifications and materials used.

 

So, take the longest edge of the image (measured in pixels) and divide by the longest edge of the desired print size (measured in inches). If an image measures 3,840 x 5,760 pixels and you want an 8 x 10 inch print. 5,760 pixels ÷ 10 inches = 576 ppi. That’s more than enough resolution. If you want make a 30 x 20 inch poster out of that image, you’d have a resolution of 192 ppi (5,760 ÷ 30), which isn’t high enough for optimum, if we are looking at least at 200 PPI.  This is a minimum remember, so adjust accordingly.

 

Alternatively, and my personal method,  size the image in inches at a ratio of 1:1. So an 18 x 12 print is sized as an 18 x 12 image in my editing software (Gimp). The resolution is set at 305 by 305 dots per inch as I use KPC, and the image, in pixels, is 5490 x 4118. The down side is the file size, the upside is its going to fit without faffing around.

 

So   http://www.keynshamphoto.co.uk/   and start printing!

23rd March 2017 – Does better kit make a better photographer?

We’ve done landscaping (an excellent evening by Stephen Spraggon, highly recommended if the comments of members after the session are anything to go by: and they are) and portrait lighting (members Gerry Spencer and Steve Dyer putting up an excellent show against recalitrant technology – again set members abuzz) since the last post (plus the Sun has made an appearance, at last, but rain still predominates) and that gives just a taste of the variety that there is to be had in the club programme. If members have a contribution they can make or a suggestion for the programme then please get in contact with Myk Garton, either at the meeting or via the club closed group Facebook page.

 

Interesting article on Petapixel this week, about the merits of relative sensor sizes (and other bourgeois concepts – see last post) where it matters to  a professional. Pictures sold. Photographer Chris Corradino finally sold more of his micro 4/3 taken pictures than his full frame, rather underscoring the point made here countless times that when looking at a photograph no one can tell you what it was taken on. Even if they could, and maybe there are some people that can, or think they can, in the end it does not matter. The viewer isn’t the slightest bit interested in brand, sensor size or manufacturer (often not who you think), lens, weather sealing, menu options, filters or the colour of the photographers woolly hat (mine is black by the way). They are interested in, engaged by, the image. OK sometimes a few of the 2.6 billion estimated photographers (probably the hobbyists, pro’s and semi pro’s) on the planet might occasionally think “How did she do that?” but the answer is usually on YouTube, the web or in a book (old fashioned and distinctly analogue concept I know, but irreplaceable in my far from humble opinion).

 

Novelty aside, if megapixels, maximum apertures, brand name, cost of glass were more important than composition, the exposure triangle and actually pointing the camera at something remotely interesting in the first place, then you could simply buy your way to success.  This is one area in life, though, where you can’t replace the (hopefully metaphorical) blood sweat and tears of learning a craft. For sure you can spend 20 hours or so getting a firm grasp of the rudimentaries and turn out some decent pictures if only more through accident than design, but, as the ever quotable Henri Cartier-Bresson pointed out: “Your first ten thousand photographs are your worst”. And he was talking in the days of film where the cost of your next frame was a consideration in pressing the shutter. Maybe it is now our first hundred thousand pictures that are our worst.

 

So what is the point of top end equipment? Essentially it is about flexibility and durability. Specialist requirements aside, such as tilt shift lenses and medium format cameras, it is about being able to go one stop further because you have to, it is about the ability of the equipment to take constant rough handling and still work; it’s about eliminating design and manufacturing flaws in optics which most of us either live with or don’t even know exist; it’s about built in redundancy whilst still being able to function. It is as much about confidence in the equipment working as anything else. What a professional pays for is not to worry about the kit working so that they get paid, not sued – and have a spare to hand anyway. And that is worth the premium as a professional photographer who gets a reputation for not delivering does not remain a professional photographer for long.

 

Then there is that old saw, “The best camera is the one you have with you”, which may be what the philosopher Daniel Dennett called a “Deepity”. A Deepity, according to  Dennett, is something that sounds important and true but is really false and trivial. In this case the point is that which you have will freeze the moment in front of you before it disappears, that which you desire cannot. True but not very helpful. What it implies is more important though, and that is learn to use what you have to hand. The question is how does this handle the exposure triangle not what does this do?

 

Take the example of the camera most people have with them all the time these days. The one on the mobile phone. Yes they are subject to the same financial restrictions as making any other camera and once they were just an add on. Today they form part of the buying decision, certainly they are a big consideration in the makers marketing processes and therefore manufacturing decisions. Some professional and semi-professional photographers shoot on nothing else. There is even a hip term for it iphoneography, named after the Apple range, long held to mount the best cameras in a phone, but that is constantly under challenge from other manufacturers, such as Samsung. Huawei have gone so far as to link with Leica, who were part of the design team for their P9 and P10 cameras.

 

The basics stay the same as hinted at above, just altered a little. Get to know how your camera app (there are lots to choose from on both Android and iPhone) handles the exposure, ISO and aperture. The tools of composition don’t change. You are going to have to choose between digital zoom (reduces quality) and getting closer/further away by walking (reduces shoe leather). You can buy accessories to snap on your phone cover to act as  wider angle or more telephoto (at a price) then you have to carry them and unless you are deliberately choosing the mobile phone as your camera of choice they are as likely to be elsewhere when you need them as to hand.

 

OK so in order to make the phone camera useable by a wider audience you might get some scene modes, like fireworks, portraits, indoors, HDR, slow shutter and so on. This is a, maybe I should say was a, big feature on compact cameras (still prefer mine to my phone, not least for the optical zoom). There is a trick to using these outside of the do-what-the-icon-says-to-take-pictures-of. Basically you need to experiment on controlled light conditions. You can then apply these camera settings as short cuts in the wild, so to speak. That’s before you get to the editing stage.

 

Editing on smartphones too often appears to be of the smear on variety (possibly because of the nature of the touch screen, more likely a love of the ready made), and is as subject to fashion as anything else. That is not to say that it cannot be used to add to the image overall, but it too often ends up looking like an amateur production pantomime dame made up in a hurry because he picked the kids up late from school. And there is the whole JPEG thing to yawn about. Yes you can shoot RAW on (some) smartphones and yes the same reasons exist to choose whichever you want according to your need. Same applies to this as to the pro-equipment remarks above, not least RAW cannot save a badly composed or otherwise uninteresting image.

 

Just because you have the latest and greatest smartest phone EVER, doesn’t mean that you are going to get an acceptable result simply by waving it at something vaguely interesting before going click. You are still going to have to work the scene, use different angles and shooting positions, get closer, get further away and so on. Consistently good images demand work as well as an eye for a picture and taking multiple images is no more expensive than on a stand-alone camera. Keep shooting until the moment is done, then and only then, move on.

 

N E X T   M E E T I N G

ROC Round 3 Judging.

19th May 2016 – Lee Filters

John Cuff of Lee Filters was our speaker last meeting and our thanks to him for an entertaining and informative evening. Handmade Lee Filters are definitely at the higher end of the market but the money goes into precision raw materials and quality control. Now part of Panavision, probably best known to most of us as a credit for the lens makers on the closing credits of  oh so many movies, Lee have been making filters for over 30 years. So this week I thought I would take the hint and we would look at camera sensors. No, only kidding, filters. Definitely filters.

 

Filters are essentially light modifiers, in that only certain wavelengths are allowed to meet the sensor or all wavelengths through darkening. We will come back to this shortly. Those of us long in the tooth who learned the basics of photography from film (not that you have to be that long in the tooth to have done that) will remember the 80A 80B and 80C or 3200K, 3400K and 3800K to daylight (5500K) colour correction filters. Then we had the 81 warming, 82 cooling and 85 tungsten to daylight series filters. Film, it should be remembered is a one off colour deal. There is no Auto White Balance on a film camera. There is a certain amount of dynamic range, but the colour balance is fixed. Colour filters with black and white effect how the greys are rendered, by and large. If you want to see the effect Google Picassa has a coloured filter on black and white option and it is free.

 

So, looking at the filters from the perspective of digital we are not looking at the colour balancing, that is done by the AWB or manual balance as we have already indicated. No need to pick the right coloured glass to screw on to your lens, you can dial in correction or you can let the camera do the work.  Essentially we use the filters in a slightly more subtle way. Yes neutral density filters, polarisers and alike pre exist digital, but we are looking at the effects on digital and as light from the sun predates it by about 4.5 billion years and we have to take it as read, we are looking at the uses we can put these light manipulations to.

 

So let’s start with the Neutral Density filter, aka the ND, aka Stoppers. Simply put their job is reduce the amount of light reaching the sensor. Essentially we are manipulating the light before we start to process it through the camera via the Exposure Triangle. The uses of such a filter include effecting the depth of field when shooting with  limited options of shutter speed, ISO and or aperture. Mainly it seems to be used for the slowing down of time to alter the relationship of something in continuous movement across or within a still frame. The much seen effect of milky flowing water  or cloudscape comes from applying this sort of filter, it really is quite versatile when you have got your head around it. Graduated versions of the ND allow darkening parts of the frame that are very bright, such as sky lines, whilst allowing for the correct exposure of other section of the frame. With graduated filters the rate at which they darken, how hard the line is between unfiltered and filtered, varies and John showed us how sensor size has an effect on that and why Lee now have four designs to get the most out of the effect without making things too obvious.

 

The polariser is a popular filter with landscapers, but not exclusive to them, as they can increase colour saturation and decrease non metallic reflections. They are also significant because their effects, by and large, cannot be replicated in post. Their use also requires some forethought  and  getting the most out of them is a function of familiarity and practice. As with everything else that we use to modify the light its use and impact is best regulated to specific, desired effects.  They work best when perpendicular to the sun and a popular way to work it out is known as the rule of thumb where you form a right angle with your thumb and index finger and point your thumb in the direction of the sun.  The direction your index finger is pointing is optimal for the polarising effects, that is to say don’t have the sun directly in front or behind you. Of course the roles of index finger and thumb can be reversed but the principle remains the same.

 

Filters, then are about control. They can be used in subtle ways to control light variations in different parts of the an image or used to give a whole image effect. There are also effect filters to consider, such as those that give four or eight rays to a point of light (not currently made by Lee, I feel  I should point out), or which render other distortions or patterns in an image. These can be replicated in post, of course, and these days their popularity seems to have waned. When Cokin first introduced their system filters into the UK nearly 40 years ago, the principle (only) medium was chemical/film based and it wasn’t unusual for a “Serious” photographer to be seen porting around half a dozen or more filters. Cokin changed the game with its system which was square when all the others on the market were round and its catalogue was famously 100 pages thick with examples of the filters in use and quite a work of art. They certainly shook the market up.

 

So our thanks to John Cuff and Lee filters for a very informative and enjoyable evening. Better start saving.

On the European Freedom of Panorama – Your Rights and Your Chance to Influence them

Slightly early this week, but your views are needed before July 9th if you think that including public buildings and public works of art in your photography should be allowed.

 

The summer programme is upon us and the first event in the calendar is the revival of the mini groups. Our thanks to those who organised them, and I look forward to seeing some of the results on the club Flickr page and the Facebook Members group as well as at the Mini Group Evening on September 17th. It’s always good to get out and practice in a sociable group of like minded photographers. None of us see quite the same thing in the same subject and even small changes of angle can have a disproportionate impact. It is all about perception, light and composition – what draws us to the subject, the interplay of light and shadow and how it looks when confined in a viewfinder. That’s about it. Until you press the shutter …..

 

When the shutter is depressed – I mean activated rather than feeling blue, I leave that to the poor souls who stumble across my images – an artefact is created. In essence something fashioned by a human being of some degree of cultural and/or historical relevance coalesces on the film plane. Now I am not vouching for the degree of cultural and or historical relevance of any particular image, that is something projected on it by its beholders which can and will change over time and is more a matter of fashion than iron law of nature. Nonetheless we have mixed our labour with that which is around us to make something new. Who owns it?

 

Because we have fashioned something new by our physical and mental effort we are said to have created an Intellectual Property and it is recognised in law. If it is for and by us it is ours. If it is something that is done in the course of our job it would usually belong to our employers. I suppose that is an advert for self employment, in which case we need to be clear with whoever commissioned the photos, i.e. stumping up the readies, exactly what it is they are buying, usually a license to use the images under certain circumstances. License basically means a permission or freedom to use. The photographer doesn’t usually pass ownership as part of that. It remains theirs. Without getting into commercial contracts – for which you really do need a lawyer – it is essential to work out, exactly, who owns what, where, when, how and why.

 

This does not only apply to photographs, though the Intellectual Property Office (Patent Office to you and I) do a very good guide (UK only) to rights concerning images, intellectual property and the internet. Neither is it uniform across Europe, enter – to varying degrees of booing and hissing, some of it deserved, most of it ill informed – the European Union. One of the founding economic principles that applies to the European Union is to smooth the path of trade between member nations. Those with a memory undiminished by time will recall we joined the European Economic Community (EEC). It does this by straightening bananas (myth), ridiculous health and safety laws (I quite like being healthy and safe, and get very angry about employers hurting people for profit, as do most employers, but maybe you are different) and in the relatively near future (time passes exceeding slow in international corridors of power), copyright. You will, if you have read last week’s blog at the very least, already be aware of this as it has been all over the photographic press especially in relation to something called Freedom of Panorama. This basically is the freedom to take photographs that are of or include public buildings without having to get property releases from the architects and owners of said buildings. Odd, you might think, but the process of creating Intellectual Property applies to buildings as well as to photographs, or even writing blogs.

 

The European Union is made up of 28 different countries with 28 different views of copyright laws. Now Intellectual Property is BIG business. You may remember the spate of law suits occurring over who invented which part of the smart phone and therefore owes whom how many hundreds of millions of pounds for ripping them off. You might also recall that Amazon own the patent/copyright on taking photographs against a white background (at least in the USA). In order to make things clear for (the lawyers of) 500 million people the EU is looking at copyright law standardisation. Part of this is the so called Freedom of Panorama. This is currently under discussion. Theoretically we could be sued for royalties for taking (commercial) pictures of buildings in Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, France, Finland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Romania and Slovenia though no one ever has been, but that statement applies to buildings, not to public works of art. Which rather begs the question why should the Freedom of Panorama be so restricted? This has exercised 300,000 + European Citizens so far who have signed a petition against the idea it should become standardised across the EU. The first vote is on 9th July.

 

You can write to your MEP’s via this link (the most effective thing to do) It will send a confirmation link to your email BEFORE sending it to your MEP’s:

https://www.mysociety.org/projects/writetothem/ (applies to the UK other countries have other ways)

Tell them it is about Freedom of Panorama and copy the suggestion at the bottom of this link

 

https://medium.com/vantage/street-photography-in-europe-an-update-on-freedom-of-panorama-9ed81d60bd5a

12th March 2015 – On Asking Reflex.

We are all photographers together but that doesn’t mean that we all have it sorted and that we cannot learn from each other. Last meeting we ran our inaugural “Ask Reflex” evening whereby members submitted questions over the previous few weeks and we took it in turns to try and answer those queries with the support of the audience. All in all it went pretty well.

 

Gerry Painter did a fine job of coordinating questions and answers for the last evening’s event, and a big club thank you to him for his sterling efforts and to Dan Ellis for putting the questions up on Facebook.  Gerry also took on the bulk of the answers himself with his usual diligence and was aided by Steve Hallam and Ian Gearing. We may not have had time to get through all of the questions but the bulk of those submitted were answered as well as some supplementary questions and observations from members who were making up the audience.

 

I have set out below a rough outline of the evenings questions and answers, where this has been practical,  with links where appropriate and sources where quoted. Again my thanks to Gerry for help getting this into the blog. I hope you find it useful and as stimulating as I did. There are a couple of extras in there as well that were victims of time pressure.

 

The questions

These were submitted over a couple of weeks by members and covered a wide range of topics. The value of this, and anyone who has run a development day or attended one will probably attest, is that the questions are actual, involved and real as opposed to what someone thinks members/readers need to know. The questions were, thereby, entirely authentic.  It also reflects the strength of the club that such a forum can be run without becoming bogged down in people’s opinions. That is not to say that people don’t have them or that they are not strongly cleaved to, but the ideas exchange was positive and that plays to the clubs strengths.

 

Gerry split the questions into three categories: Camera, Software and The Photographer and we shall snapshot these categories in the rest of this week’s blog.

 

First up were questions to do with Depth of Field and that almost Sci-Fi sounding of objects the Hyperfocal distance. Both these terms are essentially about the distance from the lens that renders an object with suitable sharpness, best thought of as a “zone”  and will vary according to the focal length of the lens, the aperture that is selected and the size of the sensor that it is being recorded on. This zone of in focus detail is deeper on small sensors, it is deeper on wide angle lenses and increases as the aperture gets smaller.

 

In layman’s terms the hyperfocal distance is the distance set on the lens to give a zone back from the horizon that is in focus to a minimum distance from the lens. The hyperfocal distance is a midpoint in this zone. Its especially useful for landscapers.  Again it is relative to sensor crop, focal length and aperture.  For instance, A 50mm “Standard” lens on a full frame (35mm) sensor at f11 focused at 9.3 metres would have a zone in focus, a depth of field, from 4.61 metres to a theoretical infinity. Same settings on 1.5 factor crop (APSC) sensor found in say a Nikon D3300, would give you a depth of focus from 5.58 metres you 37.86 metres(5.71 to 24.98 metres on a Canon 1.6 crop). Now this comes with a big health warning. Don’t get all hung up on the infinity thing. The actual hyperfocal length on a full frame 50mm lens set at f11 is 9.09 metres and the furthest in focus 1.75 kilometres. Now given the perspective that a 50mm renders the background is going to look relatively sharp a good deal less than one and three quarter kilometres away, depending on how big it is. Gerry’s example of the mountain at the end of the road was done with an 18mm lens on a 1.5 crop sensor (think of crop in the same term as when you crop a picture, what it is is a 1.5 time smaller sensor in surface area than a full frame 35mm sensor, which is really 36mm!) set at f11 and roughly a metre and a half away (5 feet). The hyperfocal distance of an 18mm lens is 1.8meters. If you have a smart phone get something like Photo Tools which is a free app and calculates this and a whole lot else for you.  For a visual explanation of this check this out.

 

What is a Mirror-less camera?

OK, yes it is one without a mirror. The mirror is what lets you see in your viewfinder what your lens is focussing on. A mirror-less camera does away with this making it mechanically simpler. You see what the sensor is seeing so you have the WYSISYG advantage (what you see is what you get). This makes the application of effects in camera easier because you see the exact outcome in your viewfinder as well as on your rear screen. They tend to be smaller. There are some drawbacks. Mirror-less camera like the Sony Alpha series, the Fujifilm X’s and so on (but there are exceptions), tend to show noise a stop or so lower than equivalent DSLR’s and battery life is shorter because you are powering two sensors/screens, there may be a little motion blur in the view finder (I profess I use one and frankly all the objections that I have been told people have with them don’t really add up to whole hill of beans for me). The difference in 7 seconds is explained here, though you might want to watch it a few times.

 

 

What changes do you make to your camera to make the background dark when the camera gives a lighter one?

 

There are a number of possible answers to this, but looking at this as a question of exposure compensation it is pretty well explained here (this is not a plug for his book, I haven’t read it).  Running this with the next question,

 

How would you take a picture of a bird such as a swan without losing detail but not under expose the rest of the image,

 

you should also take the old adage that you should expose for the highlights and print for the shadows and  in a difficult situation like this one shooting in RAW is definitely prudent because of the greater latitude in the format over JPEG. Essentially at the very extremes of the exposure graph (histogram) details are lost to absolute black and absolute white, more visually in the case of the whites and, I am led to believe, over a wider spectrum.  Digital cameras simply assign more resources to exposing lighter elements in images than the darker ones, as explained here. It also helps if you know how to read a histogram. Shooting to the right is basically about this. Shoot for the highlights in RAW and adjust in post production.

 

 

 

How does White Balance affect images and how do I decide which to use?

 

Bright and sunny weather has a different colour temperature than say the light on a cloudy day. Fluorescent lights have different colour temperatures  to say candle light or tungsten. These colour temperatures are measured in degrees Kelvin. Your camera’s idea of what white is, is actually 18% grey. These two factors affect the overall colour of your image. Explained here.  Not sure what the colour of the light on your subject? There’s an app for that (Colour Temp Meter, free on Android) or practice with the adjustments in your camera menus.

 

 

Moving on to the software section of the evening:

 

 

What ways can I “Dodge” and “Burn” an image in editing software?

The terms come from the dark room where these techniques, dodging a shadow over a too dark area, being sure to keep the tool, or your hands whatever you are using to dodge (or burn) moving so you feather the edge of the effect and lighten the area in the final result. Burning is the opposite where more light is allowed onto one area than the rest of the image to make it relatively darker. This is one thing that digital has made simpler. Using the dodge and burn brushes are the most straight forward ways of doing things, but you still have to be careful not to overdo the effect. Most digital editing software that offers you these tools will allow you to exercise the effect over the shadows, highlights and mid-tones. Essentially the same methods apply, that is the tools work in the same way. Adobe say you can do it this way as shown here. In Gimp, which we will come to presently, the Q&D version here and a more detailed explanation here is backed up by a text version in the online help.

 

 

 

Please explain layers – Photoshop Elements – (not Lightroom).

 

Layers are, essentially, the building blocks of those photo editing software packages that provide for them. They are a good thing because they do not alter the original image (you will see the word “destroy” often used, which is nonsense as you might end up with a horrible mess you can’t undo – avoided by working on a copy – but you will still have an image to consign to the recycle bin. It may be beyond taste but it won’t be beyond use, unless you try very , very hard, usually with the blending tool and the save button). They give you a wide degree of control and you can blend, change opacity, and generally faff, dither and prevaricate to your heart’s content. They are most effectively used when you know the look or effect you are after. A general guide to photoshop can be found here (there are lots to be found on You Tube). As with dodging and burning they essentially work the same way where ever they are found, just the switches and toggles tend to be slightly different (to avoid “Look and Feel” law suits from Adobe).  As the question specifically mentioned Elements here are two guides I found:

 

Layers in Photoshop Elements 13   Part 1   Part 2

 

Blending images with layer masks in Photoshop elements

 

 

 

 

How do you take a step back in Camera Raw e.g. if you’ve made a mistake?

Ctrl Z is the simple answer on Windows operating systems.  There will also be undo on the Edit menu of most programmes. The defining factor is how many steps are stored for you to undo. Photo editing and graphics software tend to make a feature of having more. Ctrl Y lets you reinstate what you have just rolled back. Same on the Mac but Ctrl key is the Command key only far more expensive.

 

 

 

Which are the best FREE image editing programs?

 

The Daddy of free editing suites is GIMP, currently at 2.10 (the even numbers represent stable editions and the odd numbers like 2.09 beta versions). It has been around since 1996, is open source and for the money, excellent. It is a programme, i.e. it is downloaded to your computer rather than run on line through a browser. It’s not particularly resource intensive but it is pretty extensive. It does not have the slickness of the Adobe suite in operation, and it is always playing catch up and always will be. However, it is supported by an extensive community and once you get to grips with it, easy to use. Will accept JPEG RAW PNG GIF TIFF and so on

 

Pixlr comes as a free or a paid for edition, but at $14.99 per annum it is unlikely to break the bank.. There are desktop and browser editions. It is easy to use and comes with a range of useful tools. For quick fixes it is pretty sound and has a fairly extensive set of effects and layers that can be utilised. Works with JPEGS.

 

Picasa from Google has a couple of useful features, actually more than a few. It has colour correction and lighting options and a selection of filters, some of which are very useful. It will load and edit other formats but it saves in JPEG only.

 

There are lot of others (see here and here) and there is nothing to say that you have to pick just one. What does become important is that you sort out your workflow. I use Gimp, Picasa and Neet on a regular basis. The workflow is important, the more technical stuff is done in Gimp and any finishing desired in Picasa and Neat (noise reduction). Also working on copies is no bad idea. Doubly so if the original is in RAW, which I convert to TIFF if switching between that and certain other programmes. Gerry has made a more extensive and useful guide which can be accessed from this link >>> RCC_free_editing_software

 

 

Time was against us so we moved to the photographer section and the last three questions were rolled together as they presented a logical conclusion:

 

 

 

How do you motivate yourself to go out and take pictures, or, what motivates you to take pictures?

 

A slight liberty taken with the question but I think it makes it more accessible to more people. See this PDF for the PowerPoint slides >>> Motivation & The Photographer

 

What types/range of lenses would you recommend that a general photographer should have?

 

From basics, you don’t need a lens at all, you need a beer can with a small hole in it and a piece of 7 x 5 photographic paper for the light to focus on. This could be added to the motivation list under get yourself a new piece of kit to work with.

 

Having thus caused a crash in the share prices of Cosina, Nikon and Canon through such heresy,  I am going to talk a little about lenses (and thereby at least partially answer the question).

 

THE most important item in the relationship between the sensor and the subject is the lens. It will dictate how close or far away you are from your subjects personal space (where animate)  and from the object being photographed (where inanimate). Their weight can effect your ability (in the case of the $2m 132Lb f5.6 Leica 1600mm zoom, hyperfocal distance a tad under 28km, probably several you’s) to move around. Then this is the lens that has its’ own 4 x 4 carry case.

The big difference for most of us is the zoom lens v the prime lens. Zoom lens are variable focal lengths, generally they are heavier than any equivalent  fixed prime, and slower, that is to say the maximum aperture is generally smaller than for a prime. The big advantage of a zoom lens is that you have a whole kit bag full of prime lenses in one. Theoretically infinite, You have a variable field of view  to go with the zoom. For example with an 18-55mm “kit lens” on a 1.5 crop APSC sensor has a 63 degree field of view at 18mm and 24 degrees at 55mm and everything in between.  The simplest difference in use can be boiled down to the fact that with a zoom lens it’s the focal length that moves to get you closer or wider to the subject, with a fixed lens it’s you that has to move.
With wide angle lenses, those of 35mm focal length or less (it’s all relative to sensor size but stick with this definition and you will save yourself a headache), there is likely to be more going on in the field of view, so it pays to be aware of what is going on at the edges of the frame. Perspective is lengthened, there is more in view but it will also be relatively “smaller”. The obvious reason to mount a wider angle lens is to “get more in”. The better reason for mounting  wide angle lens is to get in closer.

 

The “standard” lens, around 50mm, is the closest to the perspective of the human eye (apparently calculated at 42mm on a full frame, 35mm sensor). A telephoto lens start at around  85mm, often referred to as a portrait (as is a 105mm).  This is to do with perspective. The snoopers lens of choice, it can be sometimes necessary to overcome physical barriers, to bring the subject optically if not physically closer. The down side is that it can give you the air of a stalker. A compression of perspective is the signature of the telephoto lens, the impression of foreshortening the foreground and background. There is one other common sort of lens to be found, the macro (close up). There are two sorts of macro lenses, those the product of the engineering department and capable of 1:1 reproduction and those the product of the marketing department which get to a fraction of this.

 

Regardless of which focal length we are talking about, composition is everything. The lens functions as the agent of composition. The photographer selects using the lens. In a general sense a moderate wide to a moderate telephoto zoom is ideal place to start. The kit lens is as good a place to start as any. If you have a particular need such as space restrictions (mine has to fit on a motorcycle) then maybe a super zoom, but you need to be aware of the pros and cons and weigh them carefully.
What should I be thinking about to make my holiday snaps into more interesting images?  

 

In four words – all of the above. If you are still looking for ideas then see this pdf Gerry put together >>>  RCC Becoming a better photographer

 

N E X T  M E E T I N G

In honour of St Patrick >>> RCC_notice_Ian

19th February 2015 – On Your Picture Your Way

New feature to the club evenings, last Thursday saw the introduction of Your Picture Your Way where club members brought in pictures they may not otherwise have shared with the club and explained their connections to it.  The themes were landscape and street and though the interpretations were broad the insights were interesting.

 

Landscape photography goes back to the very first photograph, taken by Nicéphore Niépce, and has its roots in classical art whereas Street photography, rather than Street Portraiture which is posed from people in the street, is in the moment and distinctly the product of a photographic process. Only a camera can capture the complex juxtapositions, expressions and emotional connection in a fraction of a second. It is unique, at the moment anyway, to photography and because it is a single slice of time, specifically stills photography. Of course there is the view that street photography was invented by people who couldn’t get up early enough to shoot a sunrise, but we will let that lie.

 

There are two sides to any photograph, regardless of the genre, namely the artistic and the technical. Landscape can be as much about pre-visualisation  as it is about the composition when you get there. It is about nature and the way the elements combine to affect the Earth’s landmass. The way the seasons present and the light falls means that a single view can provide an infinite number of subtleties for the photographer to chose from – or ignore.  The elements for the street photographer can be, or at least seem to be, chaotic in the sense that physicists refer to chaos, a complex system of so many parts acting in unpredictable ways that any outcome is as likely as another. Those parts are people acting out their internal and external lives in a common space. The chaos comes from our not knowing how those internal and external lives interact on an individual by individual basis – we may not even be aware of our own balances and motivations – and how they effect those around them emotionally and environmentally. In that sea of uncertainty where we all swim moments of connection arise and those are the moments that the Street Photographer seeks to capture.

 

No matter how good your grasp of the technical is, if you can’t actually see the picture, frame the picture, compose the picture you can never take the picture. This is simply why a good photographer with a cheap camera gets consistently better results than a mediocre one with the top of the range. There are no qualification barriers to buying expensive kit, of course, nor would I advocate one, but there is no substitute for technique. “Luck” won’t cut it, especially as you tend to make your own as was discussed on an earlier blog on serendipity.   Even chaos theory allows that the biggest factor in determining what will happen (an outcome) is the initial set of circumstances from which it springs. Control what you can to discover the art in the rest goes for both Landscape and Street photography.

 

But not every subject wants their photograph taken and not every landowner wants your feet trampling their daises and not every property owner is delighted to have you take photographs of their property. There are buildings and areas that are off limits to the public and there is a lot of confusion over what you can and cannot take photographs of.  Common sense plays a part here but once an image is taken in a public space the only power to legally remove it is via a court order. This is a matter for individual conscience. You should note that laws covering criminal damage, nuisance and anti social behaviour still apply, that access to  mountain, moor, heath, down and common land in England and Wales (different laws in Scotland and Northern Ireland) is permitted but the above laws govern those activities.  Trespass is still an offence. The Official Secrets Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (especially Sections 43 and 58A)  are, with a little forethought, quite easily avoided, though it is surprising and not a little depressing the number of times that the Association of Chief Police Officers have had to reissue there guidance over the last decade or so.  Censorship is a fact of life, it is a fluid situation, but it need not be onerous, at least in the UK. If abroad, then it is a whole different ball game. Find out and stick to their rules.

 

So what did we learn from our fellow members photographs? Well I doubt there was a consensus as each of us will have seen slightly different things and taken different things from each image – and thank you for sharing those that did. So a brief list from me from a couple of discussions I had at tea break and at the end of the evening.

 

From the technique side, don’t be afraid to use the camera on auto for Street if the situation demands it. It is pointless in not getting the shot because you are fiddling with the settings because you always shoot manual (really? In this day and age?) when aperture and shutter priority modes give you almost the same degree of control, more quickly and auto will give you a more than half way decent approximation in most situations, though sticking to just one as opposed to having a range of options does suggest that you have some exploration of your camera to complete (Guilty. My camera sends nearly all its time in aperture priority because the ISO button is handy and the exposure compensation is the next button to it).

 

Don’t be afraid to try it, either landscape or street. A little planning goes a long way. If you don’t practice it then it won’t get better. Take one aspect at a time and practice it, be that a single focal length, shallow depth of field, high depth of field, low angle, there are many different things to try.

 

Look around the view finder before you push the shutter, should you reframe?  Move your position? Something else?

 

All round an enjoyable evening. See you Thursday.

 

A N N O U N C E M E N T S

NEXT MEETING: Kingswood Salver table top night – Collectables. Bring your collectables and CAMERAS as we launch our campaign for this years Kingswood Salver.

Kingswood Salver26th Feb Practical Kingswood Salver (1)

January 8th 2015 – On Woodland Photoshoot and Mounting Prints

Aaaaand we’re back. A happy New Year to you all.  Two things to write about from the club this week. The first was a model shoot at Leigh Woods with Paul Walker and Kelly Wolf Rogers, (and Allison’s dogs Otis and Basil) Sunday last (4th Jan) and the second was the session on club night on the process of mounting photographs.

 

If nothing else, then the great outdoors in January offers inspiration, even if that inspiration is to keep moving to keep warm! In fact the weather was relatively good to the two models and dozen or so club photographers who spent an interesting and fruitful day in which the rain – if not the mud – held off. Overcast meant a fairly flat light, but that is a more of a problem when taking landscapes than details in portraiture, though keeping the grey sky out of shot (unless dramatic –  or plain grey is the desired effect) certainly applies and lighting from the side and shooting when the sun is low are both possibilities, of course. What can’t be escaped is that the light is both cooler and more diffuse. The former can be compensated for via the white balance control on the camera and the tonality doesn’t have to be “natural” – that’s an artistic decision.  Of course the ideas of “warm” and “cool” are psychological responses, they have nothing to do with the physics of light, but there is no doubt that the feel of a photograph is effected by its white balance.

 

Diffuse light presents different challenges. There is no doubt that a controlled, soft light can be a tremendous influence in the composition and interpretation of an image, as can a harsh direct light. The key word is controlled. The chief problem, if problem it is, is the lack of shadow. Light from an undirected source (the sun) is bouncing about all over the place. On the other hand it tends to be a fairly even light, background and foreground, unmodified, tend to be bathed in the same light. This can lead to a lack of separation between foreground and background.  This, in itself, suggests that there may be a fairly straightforward option available. Get in closer and open the aperture, either or both depending on the focal length of lens available and the desired composition.  A 50mm prime at f5.6 close in (say 1.5 meters) gives the same depth of field as a 100mm at twice the distance (3 meters) or a 200mm from four times the distance (with an APS-C 1.5 crop censor the depth of field would be 0.16 meters from nearest to furthest and F5.6 is a reasonable-to-assume achievable aperture  on lenses covering those focal lengths). You would capture an area 71 cm high by 46 cm wide in portrait mode, i.e. with the camera rotated 90 degrees so the controls are on the side rather than on the top (as it would be in landscape) and keeping the frame tight would let you concentrate on the details.

Before zoom lenses it was the photographer who moved, see last blog’s Cartier-Bresson quote, something we should keep in mind. It also makes communication with your model easier if you are not having to phone in your requests for a tilt of the head or a sweep of the hair. More practically the logistics of moving angle are quickly and precisely in the hands of the photographer, leaving the fine detail adjustment, a tilt of the head, a slight angling of the body, a sweep of the hair and so on, with the model.

 

Flash, on or off the camera and a reflector, you know the one you didn’t leave on the settee (mea culpa),  can be a great boon in getting some of the light contrast back into the scene. The flash on the camera can be limited, but DSLR/SLT cameras mostly have ways of altering the power of the flash. Failing that you can diffuse the light using material in front of the on camera light source, being careful that it doesn’t give you an unwanted colour cast. A Speedlight or similar is more flexible, just remember that the needs of curtain synchronisation limit the shutter speeds you have available to you.  A reflector, especially a 5-in-1, can be a cheap and easy (if you have someone to hold it for you whilst you take the photograph) way of concentrating the available light onto your subject.

 

Using Camera RAW and post processing is another way of giving yourself options. RAW leaves all the details in whereas JPEG makes a certain amount of processing options away by making decisions about light levels etc at the image processing stage i.e. the click. Contrast, the available dynamic range that can be manipulated using RAW, is greater than in JPEG and for these reasons many people choose to shoot in RAW as default. There are interminable arguments about this, as you may have experienced and I have voiced my opinion before and regardless of format if you don’t press the shutter the arguments are irrelevant and the shot is lost. Forever.  There are options for editing in JPEG they just aren’t as wide or flexible as in RAW. Or you can use black and white either to shoot in or post production. There are lots of options, either singly or in combination to try. So try them! There are also the creative styles that cameras, even basic ones, increasingly have built in, especially the ones where you can exhibit some fine control like saturation to experiment with too.

 

So your masterpiece has been captured, processed and printed and it’s now ready to mount. Mounting itself can be something of an art and there are little preferences that people develop with practice. There are some choices to be made at a basic level. In terms of increasing ambition we have to decide whether our pictures are to be Card mounted (as we have to do for entering prints in the club competitions, indeed for any print competition), foam mounted or canvas mounted, aka Gallery Wraps. We can even use wood (as per canvas but with some sort of clear varnish to finish) but I prefer the more recycled approach, well we are living in the European Green Capital for 2015, after all. Card mounting is the more traditional way. For club competitions prints must be mounted on card exactly 50cms by 40cms AND a digital copy following the 1400 : 1050 width/height convention must be submitted too. Rules are to be found here. There is no doubt that the mounts have their own contribution to the aesthetic and if anyone tells you that your print has “A nice mount” and leaves it at that they are probably leaving out “Shame about the picture”.  Ignore them.  That said the mount must complement the image not compete with it, so the most effective colours are muted and white (in various shades) and black are the most frequently found – for a reason. They are not, however the only option.

The link for Bristol Framing Supplies is http://www.bristolframingsupplies.co.uk/

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

 

Wednesday 14th 19:30

Club Battle: Bristol Photographic Society

 

Where: Basement, 12 West Mall, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 4BH (Downstairs Door)

 

Description: The return match for our club battle against Bristol Photographic. This time its at their venue. Turn up and support us.

 

From Myk Garton:

WOODLAND PHOTOGRAPHY DAY 2

On Sunday 1st March we are holding another Woodland Photography Day.

We’ll be spending a day photographing models (both male and female) in woodland and other settings at Blaise Castle Estate.

We’ll meet up at 9:30am at the main car park and start shooting by 10am. The plan is to use one location up until 12:30pm, stop for lunch and then shoot at another location until 4pm or later depending on conditions.

There will be a minimum of 2 models. one male and one female.

There will be a small charge of £10 to take part. We’ll shoot for 5 hours minimum, so you’ll be paying just £2 per hour. All money raised will be split between the models.

I’ll be adding more info soon as well as mentioning it at club meetings. We’ll work on a first come, first serve basis. If you are interested in coming along please reply below.

The date is Sunday 1st March.

Any questions, please ask Myk.

 

And from Eddie and Roger:

“Roger and I have volunteered (for our sins) to oversee the Reflex Camera Club entry to the WCPF Kingswood Salver Competition 2015.

The competition rules are as follows:-

Entry is five prints – colour, mono, or a mixture of both, and must be from five different photographers. Mounts to be 50cm x 40cm as per usual WCPF Rules. All elements of the work must be no more than 2 years old and not previously entered into this competition.

The ideal is that all of the images are good in their own right but must fit together as a panel of five.

Follow the links below to see examples from the 2014 competition.
http://www.wcpf.org.uk/…/k…/2014-kingswood-salver-etries.php
http://www.wcpf.org.uk/pages/kingswood-salver-2014.php

Our target is to make up 3 panels of 5 with different themes and then pick the best of these to enter the competition.

To start the ball rolling we would like to ask club members to suggest themes based on what we could achieve as a club, we will then choose 3 subjects to target.

We are considering using our evening on the 26th February as a practical night when we would like to set up various still life studios (with a little help) and attempt to create a panel or two based on a theme of collectables. For this we would ask members to bring along items to photograph, more details on this to follow”.