Skies, can’t live with them, can’t live without them, indicates some of the difficulty that the greatest source of light on the planet can present to photographers and may explain why some retreat on a more or less permanent basis to a studio where these things can be controlled. That, however is not the fate of the landscaper, the wedding photographer, the took-the-camera-on-holiday snapper, well, anyone who takes a photograph of, or in, the great outdoors. Pretty much everyone, then.
Dynamic range is the problem, luminance, the ability of a sensor to reproduce the extremes of blacks and whites in a photograph and everything in between. The human eye/brain combo has a dynamic range of 10-14 f-stops, about 1/1,000,000,000 times the faintest light to that of the of our local star in the middle of a bright and sunny day. DXO give the highest dynamic range of any commercially available DSLR at 14.8 stops. So how can that be a problem? Most modern DSLR’s and CSC’s appear to be within that 10-14 stop range so can emulate the human brain. Yes and no. The question is where the average that you are metering for lies in that range. Your camera does not possess the same dynamic processing capabilities as your brain which constantly adjusts to available light levels (and has been several million years in the development in doing so). What we see in an image is the capture of a moment. It is fixed. The exif data tells you that. What we see with our eyes is dynamically adjusted to what we “know” and changes constantly. In our brains the “shutter” is always rolling, not fixed.
That expectation can be shown in an image with a high dynamic range (that’s a clue) but necessarily arranged around the average the light meter has constructed or the camera instructed by the photographer. Those f-stops in the range have captured the information, we just need to rebalance the image to our expectations. That was the subject of our last meeting and Gerry Painter, Mark O’Grady and Nick Hale gave us some valuable leads on how, with some contributions from the floor, using both Adobe (Elements, Lightroom and Photoshop) and Smart Photo Editor how we can use that inbuilt dynamic range to our own advantage; and yes the same applies to JPEG and to RAW, just not in equal measure.
Broadly the latitude in a JPEG is plus or minus 2 stops over the “correctly” exposed average. With RAW that moves to approximately +/-3 stops. What the sensor can see, approximately, and what the eye can see, is not the same as the sensor records in straight numbers. There are a number of solutions that are available including HDR either from a single or multiple frames plus the various trips that we were shown using the tools available in the photo editing suites and we mentioned above. A single HDR image taken pushed to reveal the highlights and so then back to the original and push to the shadows then combine the three to cover a greater range is one way but if the range needs to be extended further then three separate shots can be used. To get the best out of this will usually require dedicated software such as Luminance HDR, which is free, or Photomatics or any number of similarly capable software, to blend the images into one.
There are, of course, other factors to consider, especially if you are blending two images, especially the quality/temperature of the light needing to match to make things convincing. That is convincing, not accurate – see the discussions of this over the last two posts. This was shown to be relatively straightforward, what doesn’t match between two images really stands out rather clearly and it is down to being a little critical of the outcome. Does this look as if it is one image, or does it look like more than one image crammed together. The hit and hopes do tend to stand out. As ever it is a matter of personal taste. It’s your photograph, what are you happy with?
Which brings us to round 2 of the ROC. Paul McCloskey was our judge and thanks to him for his insights and reflections on the night. The number of images commended was the highest to date and reflects not just a growth in quality but also one in diversity. The club moves from strength to strength. There was some conversation about what Paul saw and what some in the audience saw differently, as ever when we compare and contrast each other’s work, but that is both a good and necessary thing. The story we think we are sending out won’t always be the story that other’s think we are telling, and that can open us to other opportunities.
Results are as follows, those marked No Image Available mean exactly that. There was no image in the cloud folder for them.
Digital Print Images
Beauty and the Beast
No Image Available
No Image Available
No Image Available
Centre of Attention
The Big Bang Theory
Who Needs a Parrot?
Butterfly With No Name
It’s a Bird
Brecon Beacons – Falls
Sorry I’m Late
The Greek Goddess Ariadne
Congratulations everybody, a fine showing.
17 December Meeting SCHOOL IS CLOSED. REPAIR TO THE UPSTAIRS OF THE LANGTON COURT ON LANGTON COURT ROAD. Bring something festive to eat and lots and lots of prints of any size – it will be fun.
Next meeting at the School: January 7th 2016 – Chairman Maurice has the floor. Read up on your Little Red Books …
As we approach carnival season, Somerset style (see below) and the photo opportunities that creates, we spent last meeting huddled around various laptops editing in a handful of different editing programmes following on from Marko Nurinem’s virtuoso display last week. So there was Lightroom (of course) but also GIMP, Smart Photo Editor, Picasa, and Photoscape with CS2 (free from Adobe and all quite legal here is how to get it) ACDSee getting honourable mentions from new member Gary.
Now, you long term readers of this blog will know that the world divides into two camps, the Get-it-right-in-the-cameraista’s and Ye-Accolytes-of-Photoshop. As an avowed Get-it-right-in-the-cameraista I sure do a lot of editing. The argument is that the more you get it right for you in the camera the less fiddling around you have to do in post-production. In my case it comes from a youth spent shooting expensive slide film on a shoestring budget. In these digital days, when the hardware is still expensive but the marginal cost of the next image is a fraction of a penny, what that is really about is expanding the chances of achieving the image you want to capture. The principle categories in photo editing programmes are those that alter the fundamentals of the image and those that layer effects on. Of course the real world contains a bit of both usually, but the fundamental approach will be one or the other.
If you are shooting in RAW the images can seem a little flat and dull – remember that what you see in the viewfinder is either a reflected image of the actual light falling on your subject or, in CSC’s and compacts, effectively a jpeg. Sometimes a little cropping or erasing extraneous details make for a more satisfying final product. Maybe a shadow could do with lightening or a sky darkening to get back some detail, or a blemish on the skin would be more flatteringly removed from the portrait. Smart Photo Editor is the proprietary, paid for (£19.95 ‘on sale’ and a bargain stand alone and £34.95 as a Photoshop Plug in) programme I use and also Gimp and Picasa, both free. Others use other combinations, some paid for some free.
Your ambition may not quite extend to the do everything Photoshop (yet at least) and I will venture two reasons pecuniary why you may not, one more obvious than the other, viz: (A) you don’t have the set up or space or need for it to make the most of it and (B) Zombies. The former is more obviously expensive than the latter, and I don’t want to get into an endless and ultimately fruitless kit pornography rant, so ’nuff said, but the latter can have quite an impact on the pocket. Let me explain.
Fortunate as most club members are to be living in a city that has an “Official” policy for handling of a Zombie outbreak, that isn’t quite what I mean – though there are worrying sightings. Zombies are those little items, small denominations, that walk out of your bank account every month without much thought. In isolation they are not a lot. Their attraction is their affordability, the trade is made worth it by the perceived quality/quantity you get in return – at the point of purchase. You get a lot of things with Adobe’s Creative Cloud for photography for £8.57 a month, no doubt. A more detailed and flexible programme there is yet to be brought to market, though the gap may be closing. It is, I suspect, a lot more than most amateur photographers need, but it’s always nice to have some extra wumph under the bonnet. If it wasn’t no sports cars or sports bikes would ever get sold. For a vocal minority bragging rights are always the primary concern.
That, though isn’t quite the point. Are you going to pay (and keep on paying) £102.84 straight out on something you might need? No? But might pay £8.57 a month on something that is more than you need, something you can expand in to. It’s there and it ticks over and you get used to it. But, when is it just one item? When it’s a couple, or three, it grows. £20.00 a month isn’t a lot to spend on a hobby, say on editing and storage. £240 a year is not an inconsiderable amount to waste. Certainly less than a divorce lawyer when the other half finds out how much you really spent on that camera body. That’s halfway to a very decent new lens or a goodly second hand one even on £20.00 a month. The zombies keep on walking and are easy to add to, easy to forget. The costs add up. On the other hand it keeps you up to date and Adobe get a steady revenue stream, pirate copies are fewer and far between. Easier if you are self employed and you can claim it against tax, of course.
Not that I am seeking to dissuade you. The reality is Adobe first, the others a long way behind when it comes to sales and it is a de facto industry standard, which in itself generates market share for Adobe. Our focus, though, was on a broader range of editing opportunities as well as Photoshop. We looked a little at the alternatives to Photoshop on the Ask Reflex evening, this evening was a chance to get closer to the subject. From a little tour round I would say that there is a great deal that you can do with a little practice, patience and occasional lateral thinking as members showed how they adapt what they have to get what they want.
There is another benefit to using editing software that may not be immediately apparent, at least at the time of shutter release and really is about getting your money’s worth. Through cropping your original image you can often find more than one image possibility from a given frame. (Don’t confuse image crop, cutting out bits of a bigger picture with sensor crop the physics of collecting the same amount of light on different sized sensors). You effectively recompose the photograph, albeit with less data in it. It might be that the light and shadow falling across a landscape actually yield two very different moods when you isolate each area and you now have three opportunities from one frame. I would say that, in work flow terms, cropping is the first thing that you do, because you have the essential character in view that you want to work with. The crop is basically a magnification of the connection that drew you to take that frame in the first place. There are frequent chances to re-crop a frame rarely do we crop so tight that there isn’t any wriggle room and even then, sometimes, going more extreme tells a different story. Of all the editing you can do this is perhaps the simplest and the one with the biggest potential, which is why I would suggest it’s the best place to start the editing.
follow the link as it will show you the dates and also has descriptions of themes. Click on the individual carnival websites for start times etc. Below is a copy of Myk’s post on the club Facebook page:
“This year’s Someset Carnival season is almost here. If anyone would like to attend one of these events as a group, please see the dates and locations below.
We’ll be making announcements on club meetings so everyone will get to hear about it.
Monday 09/11/15 – Burnham on Sea
Friday 13/11/15 – Weston Super Mare
Monday 16/11/15 – Midsomer Norton
Wednesday 18/11/15 – Shepton Mallet
Friday 20/11/15 – Wells
Saturday 21/11/15 – Glastonbury
The preferred date/venue is Wells on 20/11 as they have market stalls, hot food/drinks and a fairground in the market square”.
Reflex Open Competition Round 1.
Grateful as I am for the legion of share-minded posters on You-Tube – you make writing a blog like this so much easier and I thank you all for it – and their willingness to help, Marko Nurminem‘s excellent evening on some of the things you can do with Lightroomtm (and Photoshoptm ) where even the most experienced users in the club I talked to afterwards said they had learnt something from, just went to prove that a live event has a quality of its own. It helps that Marko has a practiced, easy delivery, is an absolute master of his craft and has something to say. It was a very interesting evening for Adobe users and non-Adobe users alike (and I am in the latter camp).
The Adobe suite aka “Creative Cloud Photography” is far reaching in its capabilities. I remember having a conversation with a graphic designer a couple of years ago who quite cheerfully admitted that, of the Adobe suite, he had an extensive knowledge of the bits he needed but doubted there was anybody, including at Adobe, who knew it all. I can believe it. But it goes beyond photography, indeed it is, in its entirety, designed for “Creative teams in large organisations“. Scaling things back a bit, say to your average photo-club user (whoever s/he may be) some post production is going to be involved in the hobby. Indeed it seems to be a necessity in most people’s minds I have talked to about the hobby and although I am going to talk about the getting paid element below, most camera club members are hobbyists. Of course post production is not limited to Creative Cloud, there are free editing versions, like Picasa, or Gimp among many, but the Creative Cloud is designed with professional image production in mind. This explains the integration between the individual programmes in the Creative Cloud, the breadth and the depth. And there is a lot of breadth and depth. It takes a lot of time to get to know them and there are usually three or four different ways to come to the same result in any given programme.
Using them efficiently is something else. Workflow – the processes an item passes through from initiation to completion – determines this. Merely because someone talks about workflow when processing their images does not mean that it is an efficient or effective use of their time/equipment, there is nothing automatic about it. The idea behind workflow is that by isolating the steps in and between each process in the course of producing a result, in our case an image, it becomes possible to identify the most effective way of getting to the finished product. It goes back a century to the works of Frederick Taylor and Henry Gantt, though neither of them would have recognised the term. There is also a very important distinction to be made here between efficiency – which people will tell you they are after – and effectiveness. Efficiency is about getting the maximum work done (output) for the amount of time and materials used (input). What could be better? Well being effective. Being effective is about doing the right thing, you can be ultra-efficiently doing the wrong thing. You can get to hell in a hand cart in land-speed record time by straightening out all the corners and a firm pavement of good intent, it isn’t usually a destination of choice. As Marko put it: “… Be subtle, because rescuing pictures is hard work. Really!”
Presets are a key to executing an efficient workflow, Marko illustrated with a very rapid editing of a low contrast image into one with considerable pop. For editing Marko insists that using RAW as a starting point makes sense as the processing of JPEG files, though perfectly feasible, starts from a smaller base of information, some of the processing having already been carried out and is irreversible. Presets can be made and stored to suit in most of the editing suites that consider themselves more than basic. Essentially a preset is like taking the town by-pass. You get to that roundabout on the other side of town that much quicker, though you still have some twists and turns to negotiate before you reach your final destination. When you only have one or two images to develop then you most likely have time to fiddle. When you have 500 to work through – and you have deadlines and your getting paid depends upon making those deadlines – then 30 seconds saved on each one adds up to hours when you could be doing something more productive instead. Also matters of personal style and taste can be base lined, by making presets they can be easily standardised across an oeuvre over time. The merits of this particular arguments are for another day.
The messages that I got from this enjoyable evening, and it is a sample of one, other than outlined above was that post production is more or less inevitable so concentrate on what you capture on your processor (JPEG or RAW is irrelevant to this), get it as best you can and tweak it in post so you can get back to taking your next set of images. What all these post production packages in the digital age have done is not, most definitely not, invented post production, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce had to develop his image and that was the first, but it has democratised it and photography. Against this there are questions of how images should be executed and presented and that is by far mostly a question of fashion. Marko showed us, most importantly, that there is more than one way of looking at an image.
A good shot tells a story. That is timeless. There are more photographs taken now then ever, most of them with little artistic merit but a lot of personal investment. Camera club membership and presentations like Marko’s and Adrian’s last week and Rich’s and Mark S. and Gerry’s before them (and all the others) the wide range of activities, opportunities and connections that this presents is one way of closing that gap.
A N N O U N C E M E N T S
12th February is the deadline for ASK REFLEX. Please submit your questions by close of play Thursday night.
It is also the ROC open “Creative” round judging night. Be there or be square!
Mr Painter’s Most Excellent Patent Circulars Reveal All By The Magik Of The Hyperlink: This week:
Woodland Photoshoot Blaise Castle, March, see Myk.
Website & Blog Posts
You may have noticed that a few weeks ago the website went down for a while. When it reappeared it had a few problems which have now mainly been resolved but one still remains and will take a while to fix. That one problem is that all the old Blog posts that used to have images associated with them (Reflex Open Competition results & other competitions) no longer have those images available.
Well unfortunately the site decided to go into meltdown and the back up solution I had in place seems to have a small but significant flaw in the way it worked. It backed up the site all the posts and all the images to the clubs Dropbox folder. Unfortunately it did not save which images were associated with each post nor did it save the contents of slide shows that were embedded into certain posts. Now it would seem a simple thing to put the photo’s back into each post & slide show. Well the site currently has over 800 images and I have to manually go through each post and find each image that should be in that post. It’s going to take a while and to be honest isn’t high on the priority list at the moment. Finding a properly working back up solution that doesn’t cost anything, or has a very low cost, and is easy to deploy is the first order of business.
Now for some good news. We have a new “Editor” for the Blog, Ian Gearing has volunteered to help run the Blog and you should start to see posts from him very soon. We would still love to hear from any club members that would like to write articles or features for the Blog regularly. So if you’d like to become an Author for the Club’s Blog get in touch. It’s easy and all you really need to remember is that its a place to post info on club activities or information that the club’s members would be interested in and not somewhere to advertise your own or your friends business.