The third round of the ROC, congratulations to the winners, thanks to Peter Weaver for his work as the judge, and it is good to see that the overall level of technical achievement is going in the right direction. To those members who are convincing themselves that their work isn’t good enough to show, I have to say you are probably wrong about that. The competitive element aside, and the importance of that will be personal to each entrant, getting feedback from experienced judges is a good way to look to our personal development as photographers.
It comes back to that word “Because”. I agree with the judge, because … I disagree with the judge, because … are two great places to start. Personal development involves reflecting on the work we produce and putting it forward in the first place is a great way to see things differently. Seeing things differently, trying things differently is the deliberate act that fires that improvement.
As I said in the closing remarks, £2.95 for a re-usable 40 x 50 cm (20 x 16 inch ) mount to fit a 16 x 12 inch (40.6 x 30.5 cm) aperture from The Range (cheaper on line, but make sure you know what you are buying first) and £1.82 for a 16 x 12 gloss or lustre print from Keynsham Photographic Centre and we are in business. Give it a go.
It is, after all, about perception. The whole conceive, frame, light, shoot thing is to capture a perception of something we saw, no matter how real that actually was. The camera may never lie but photographs do, because they are about slices of reality, selected contexts and an impression of a thing. If the camera thinks 18% Gray is half way between black and white we are starting from something of a skewed perspective anyway (here for the science of it).
The danger, at least to posterity, lies in what we perceive as a photograph. It used to be a lot narrower than it is today. A photograph was the finished product held in the hand, hung on the wall, or mounted in the family album. Today we stop a step short of that. What we have with digital technology – and I speak here as a fan – is a computer file as a “finished” article.
Unfortunately these files we keep on computers and so need complex and expensive technology to view them.
The files themselves are subject to physical loss (hence the need for back up), damage (hence the need for back up), infection by malicious code (hence the need for back up), and eventually and probably sooner than you think, redundancy (hence the need for back up in more than one file type if you are being particularly cautious). The back ups are also prone to all of the above.
Keeping your treasured images on the Cloud is one answer to this. Except it isn’t. They are still computer files and still need expensive technology to view them. “The Cloud” is a fluffy marketing term for someone else’s computers. Someone else’s very, very, very expensive computers.
These very, very, very expensive computers are mostly under someone else’s legal jurisdiction, are only going to operate as long as someone, the people who own and maintain those very, very, very expensive computers will only do so as long as they can make a profit from those very, very, very expensive computers. They also makes you images easier to steal, but that isn’t their purpose.
Yes this also applies to “Free” services. “Free” is another fluffy marketing term which means “You pay for this another way” usually by your personal data, which you give access to in the terms and conditions (EULA’s as they are technically called, End User Licensing Agreements), and everyone you interact with which, they do not, necessarily. This as far away as it can be from the harmless fair trade it sounds and it massively profits the collectors of such data.
After all, these very, very, very expensive computers are run for profit and not for the well-being of their users, who, by and large, are well and truly in the dark as to the real value of what they like, share and post and whereas buying that data is relatively inexpensive the worth to end users is far, far, far higher than what is paid to collect. Allegedly, it has been used to select governments and policies.
The cost of storing and displaying our jpegs is far higher than we may have thought and there are important political issues surrounding our ability to do so, but there are also aesthetic considerations. Looking at a print is an altogether different experience than looking at an image on a computer screen. I find that, probably because of their relative scarcity compared to screen images, that looking at prints invites an altogether slower, more absorbing process.
The same goes for making prints, whether we do them ourselves or have them done commercially. Again this something connected to the print process. We are saying that this particular image has some more than usual significance for us, that we want to spend more time on and with it and that, maybe, we want to display it – on the wall at home or in the club competitions or even in an exhibition – but above all we want to keep it.
So, why not leaf through your favourites and select half a dozen for printing and mounting? Then choose your best three and enter them for the ROC round 4. If you need help members can us the Facebook page or have a talk with someone at the next club meeting. You will have something to keep and you will have some constructive criticism which you can apply to your photography and that then becomes a strong base for improving your photography over all.
Pam Lane ARPS DPAGB AFIAP and husband Eddy Lane ARPS DPAGB AFIAP were our guest speakers and a fascinating evening spent in the footsteps of Shackleton, some superb photography and a penguin quiz. Can’t say that is a common event! So I came away with a clue about how to differentiate a Magellanic from a Macoroni, a Gentoo from a Chin Strap and a Rock Hopper from a King and the fact that the World population of Penguins is around 50 million. And much, much more. An excellent and entertaining evening that was well received all round.
Earnest Shackleton is often used as an exemplar of Leadership in times of adversity (including by yours truly) and the best quote I have ever come across about that period of polar expedition goes as follows.
“For scientific discovery give me Scott; for speed and efficiency of travel give me Amundsen; but when disaster strikes and all hope is gone, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton.” Sir Raymond Priestly, Antarctic Explorer.
The story is all out heroic, even if underlying that story are mission objectives not even remotely fulfilled. Everyone got back. What they got back to was the peak of Flesh v Steel and the new way of waging war was being worked out at the cost of hundreds of thousands dead, mutilated, shattered in mind and body. Patriotically they joined up and fought, not all of them survived, but served with distinctions nonetheless.
Pam and Eddy braved the elements in somewhat more certain circumstances, nonetheless freezing waters, actually below freezing waters around minus 2 degrees Celsius, lower if the water is saltier, massive cliffs of moving pack ice and bergs and cold, cold winds all have to be taken into account. Their camera equipment they kept outside for the main part, simply because of the problems of condensation which can render equipment useless especially when it is repeatedly exposed to extremes. Unlike the Northern extreme, though, there isn’t generally wild life there that views human visitors as a welcome variation in diet. One scientist of the British Antarctic Survey was killed by a Leopard Seal whilst out snorkelling, but that was some time past now. The fact that the air is so arid means that the abandoned detritus of human occupation left behind is largely as it was when it was abandoned. South Georgia’s redundant whaling station’s iron work shows a patina of rust but that is only at the surface and many of the wooden buildings survive intact even after 50 years.
Their photographs weren’t only of penguins and wooden shacks, though there were petrels and albatross, seals aplenty and these were all executed with great skill and precision. Personal favourites were of the petrels and albatross against the background of the sea, the seals and the massive ice floes. It was, as already stated a very entertaining and informative evening.
So, carrying on from where we left off in the last post on week 2’s Q & A session we turn to:
What is the difference between RAW and JPEG?
This is also a question of RAW v Everything Else, and we have dealt with this quite recently in the blog, indeed we have visited it several times over the years, so I won’t go over in any great detail.
Much has been written about why you should use it as your standard format. RAW, in analogy, is the digital equivalent of the film negative. You expose the film you get what the lens is pointing at in all its tarnished glory. Ye-Acolytes-Of-Photoshop will tell you to use RAW because RAW retains the maximum amount of information. RAW will almost certainly need some work done on it anyway because it acts as a record, is as neutral as photographic algorithms get, even so are constructed and thus certain assumptions are made at the algorithm manufacturing stage. Way, way before you even entered the camera shop. It is why there isn’t just one edition of RAW. Camera makers, in order to optimise the electronics within their system, write their own versions of it. Programmes like Photoshop have the ability to deal with this variation built in so you won’t be conscious of this. Indeed you cannot view a RAW image by itself, it needs a suitable image programme to view it.
That, Shock! Horror! includes on your camera. What you see in Live View is actually a JPEG….
A Get-It-Right-In-The-Camera-ista will say, not without some philosophical justification, that JPEG is fine, because the decisions you make at the time of capture are the most important decisions in the timeline of any photograph, so take some time to get it right and to be fare Ye-Acolytes-Of-Photoshop wouldn’t disagree. JPEG saves you space, it saves you time and it comes in a universally acceptable ready to go format. You can do edits on a JPEG though because there isn’t as much information to edit you cannot edit to the same degree. Many of the clever things that your camera can do, like HDR, are rendered by the camera in the JPEG format. And what you see in DSLR Live View is the finished article according to JPEG (see shock! Horror! revelation above). JPEG also saves space, but it does this by binning information the algorithm decides you don’t need. It is a destructive editing method. It is great for final shots (you can’t save in RAW remember), because it is the first format that websites, editing programmes etc are set up to handle.
This is where the Histogram comes in. Always check your image against the histogram when you have a scene with high dynamic range. Indeed if you have high dynamic range in a scene (both very dark and very light) shoot RAW anyway. If you are bracketing to grab the highlights and shadows for post process later make sure that the range you are bracketing (my Sony limits automatic bracketing to ± 0.3 or 0.7 of a stop, which is pretty useless most of the time I want to use it, so intend to do this manually) has some overlap (or take three or four or more as necessary). You can then choose to layer and pick whichever is the most suitable exposure part of a scene or combine them into a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image.
The sensible answer is to use what you are comfortable with given the job to hand or, if you work for Reuters, JPEG i.e. whatever the client demands and, of course, you have to choose a format to store your edited work in and JPEG is pretty universal.
N E X T M E E T I N G
Week 4 – 22nd Sept 2016 19:30 – Quiz Night. Teams of 3/4 members compete against each other in a photography quiz – So make sure you have caught up with ALL the past blog postings ….
Tintern Abbey was our rendezvous last meeting, the next is at Gloucester Docks and we have a themed shoot. Please see the club’s Facebook Page or email the club for details (link on the main page). Not a bad showing considering it’s the other side of the Severn Bridge, even if we seemed to lose each other when we moved on to the Old Railway Station and its sculpture trail. Possibly the others I lost track of went on to the bridge at Brockweir, or home. Still it was a rewarding evening.
So the Olympics have just started and on display this week were the armouries Canon and Getty have provided, several million dollars worth. Then this is an enormous event. One photographer has already had £30,000 worth of kit heisted by a street gang using distraction tactics (and that had an interesting postscript). Whatever else you might say about it, there are no small numbers involved in the providing of it. The International Olympic Committee have banned GIF’s from the attending photographers (among other formats) in an effort to maintain control on who and how money is made from the images taken of the action. GIF’s, Graphic Interchange Format, are generally thought of in their animated form these days, though it is a lossless file format for stills too, and it is this animated form that has the IOC so animated, or at least its ability to simulate film/moving pictures. Which is all very fine, but what is a lossless file?
Lossless files describe the performance of data compression – squeezing the raw data into smaller storage spaces without losing quality. They are not just photographic formats but audio formats too and there are general formats for other data, the most familiar of which are Zip files, but also for computer code. GIF has been around a fair few years, but it has grown in both popularity and capability, but it only handles 256 colours. Its appeal to the web is its tiny size, and of course its ability to be turned into short animations. As a format it actually predates the Web as the it has been around (unaltered) since 1989.
JPEG on the other hand, is a “Lossy” format. Lossy “is the class of data encoding methods that uses inexact approximations and partial data discarding to represent the content” (Wikipedia). It is a one way street, meaning it cannot be reversed. Lossless preserves the colour data (but might reduce it as in a GIF). Its irreversibility had Reuters making JPEG their only accepted format, one suspects, as there are more limitations on its ability to be manipulated as well as the economies of scale available in limiting the number of formats they have to accommodate. It is pretty universal as formats go. Outside of the personal storage areas you won’t find RAW on the web, but JPEG you will find pretty much everywhere. Most cameras shoot JPEG of course – it is the photographers format, JPEG stands for the Joint Photographic Experts Group. It will give you 16 million colours, more than you can actually see, but the trick is in the transition between colours and shades of colours, which are generally pretty vibrant. Its widely accepted of course (see above) and you would have to look long and hard to find a computer that cannot handle it.
We linked to the JPEG v RAW argument in the last post, but RAW doesn’t get a look-in when talking about most of the images we see. Then, in the days of film we saw a lot, lot, more prints than ever we did negatives. The world, though , has changed a lot in the last 25 years where digital is the new normal – normal for taking and displaying images. The world’s first digital SLR was a modified Nikon F3, The Kodak Professional Digital Camera System (DCS) which was tethered to a 200MB hard drive, that the photographer carried over the shoulder. Its capacity was 156 uncompressed 1.3MP images and was yours for around $30,000 US (about £23,000 at current exchange rates, but actually closer to £40,000 when you take inflation into account). That was 1991. On the 6th August that same year Tim Berners Lee posted the first page to the World Wide Web (the internet is actually the system of computers that powers it) and though one and the other are now inseparable, the first image was posted in 1992. CERN made the code a gift to the World in 1993, and the rest, as they say, is a gloriously messy history.
Whereas we will find lots of JPEGs and GIF’s on the web, as presentation formats at the very least, they are by no means the only formats. BMP, often called a “Bump”, is sometimes used by photographers but it is not very flexible and the . TIFF, or Tagged Image File Format, is more common because it is the standard digital format in the printing industry. It has been controlled by Adobe since 2009 but was originally created by Aldus as a format for Desk Top Publishing, which for many years was the next big thing. It was designed to be a very flexible format, supporting such types of compression as JPEG, LZW, ZIP (or none) and retains all colour and data information as well as being saved with layers. But the files are huge. Hence camera RAW which compresses the original data losslessly, but it isn’t a single agreed format as the camera manufacturers all have their own versions of it.
PNG Portable Network Graphics), the last of the more common formats, was envisioned as a replacement for GIF. Not all web browsers – think of how we store most of our images on line these days and browsers are a very big thing – support it, though that is increasingly uncommon now. It can’t be animated like GIF’s can, which probably keeps the GIF a more common file type, and whereas it does, otherwise what GIF does, only better, those files tend to be large.
So there we have it, in aggregate some of the reasons why, as photographers we deal with RAW and JPEGS the majority of the time, and why TIFF is still used to store images by some. All because you can animate a GIF and the IOC voraciously defends its commercial properties….
N E X T M E E T I N G
Costume shoot at Gloucester Docks, see Facebook/email club as per above.
Change of venue to a walk around the docks in pleasant company, always interesting thing to photograph going on as it is now a social centre for the city. It being evening and ending after dark rather suggested that we take a look at night photography, both with and without a tripod.
On the face of it, night photography is defined by two of the absolute essentials of photography. Firstly contrast, you have to go and find it. It will either be very low, which can make things muddy and ill defined or very high, which can call into question shadow and or highlight detail, losing it mainly. Then there is the whole light thing, rather the relative lack of it and the effect that has on the exposure triangle, camera shake and sensor noise.
Situation is also key. This post is going to look at the urban setting as that is where we were, which sets a very different array of questions than say, photographing the milky way in the Brecon Beacons. Urban settings have more immediate and multiple hazards, multiple opportunities too. That is not to say that you should go prancing around the countryside with anything but due care, it is a far more dangerous place than townies think.
Whereas there is a joy in wondering around looking for photo-opportunities you are far more likely to find them if you know what you are looking for (planned serendipity). Let’s start with the golden hour. The Golden Hour isn’t exactly an hour, it is short hand for, in photographic terms, a quality of light that is a function of the relationship between the angle of the sun to the earth. During that time the colour temperature of the light is around 3500 Kelvin because of the greater depth of the atmosphere it has to travel through.
Now you say, being on the ball, that makes the light bluer than the standard daylight of around 5500 Kelvin and you would be right. That soft quality of light that makes for good portraits as well as land, urban and seascapes (we will ignore sun rise for the purposes of this piece but the golden hour is that which starts around dawn) is a product of the low angle of the sun to the horizon which scatters the blue wavelengths relative to the red/yellow wavelengths which, psychologically, look warmer to us. Think instant no cost tanning. That low angle means long shadows too that are also softer than you will experience later in the day.
The time it is available is limited so there is a time pressure (though no excuse for bad technique, of course). It’s all in the preparation (a point worth repeating). Cloud cover will need to be monitored and factored in too. Knowing when today’s golden hours are, or tomorrows etc, depends upon your planning window, is fairly easy to calculate. I feel almost obliged to mention The Photographers Ephemeris at this point. It also worth persisting throughout the hour because of the speed the light changes is so rapid. ISO’s are likely to be higher and/or apertures wider and the White Balance, which will try to correct to daylight if left on auto, should be set to cloudy to preserve the warmth in the light.
Not that the setting of the sun should stop you, the urban landscape presents a myriad of possibilities, some of these we have spent some time on club outings photographing. The first thing to remember is a piece of advice from Scott Kelby and that is the last thing you do is put the camera on the tripod. Make up your mind what you are photographing, “Working the scene” to determine the most productive angles. Then fix the static element around that rather than restricting yourself the other way round. Handheld is also an option, depending on vibration reduction/how steady your hand/availability of something solid to brace yourself against or set the camera. Another tip I have found very useful is, when holding everything steady as you can, is to shoot a sequence using the motor drive that is built into virtually every camera these days. Five will get you one steady shot more often than not, though there are, of course, limits to what you can achieve. Wide angle are a lot easier to get results with this way than telephoto lenses which, with exceptions, need a tripod.
The lights in the urban environment are both static and mobile. The very wide and the very narrow are both good for picking image subjects. Cityscape panoramas provide, usually, both static and mobile elements. Shop windows, street lights vehicle light trails. Getting high up, windows, multi storey car parks with a view, bridges and alike offer vantage points. Shop windows make for a great free soft box for street portraits. Neon light always sticks out and often uses reds and yellows which are particularly striking and blues can be arresting set on a dark background. Reflections in windows or water are worth paying attention too. The light sources in the scene really are the first thing you should weigh up These are, light trails aside, entirely static. Waiting for something or someone to come along and add interest to it is really quite logical.
Exposure is always going to be tricky at night as we discussed above, because of the high dynamic range that you will be dealing with. This is one situation where it really does make more sense to shoot in RAW than in JPEG (or, if you want your cake and eat it, both) unless your camera is using a version of HDR with a high ISO and a black frame to reduce the noise, which will be a built in function and therefore not one where you have the data format option, necessarily. Noise reduction in camera will slow down the write to card times by approximately the same length of time as the exposure so if you are going longer than a second or so and/or shooting sequences with long exposures it probably makes sense to turn it off and do your noise reduction in post.
Flash has it’s uses, but not if you are trying to be discrete. Nonetheless, meter for the highlights, shoot camera RAW, accept that post production is almost inevitable in these things. Dark images are not necessarily a bad thing, you are shooting at night after all, but the mood after dark is always different. The mood of some people is also rather different so make sure you play it safe. The tripod is a good idea, of course, especially if you are looking at longer exposures, when it becomes an essential, either because of the generally low light levels or because you want to include some blur in your subjects – also useful if you are putting in some zoom blur too – or you are looking to put some light trails in, as discussed above. And we haven’t even broached the subject of light painting.
All in all a great way to extend your photographic day and pretty much what e shall be doing at WSM this Thursday, with the added incentive of it being bike night. See you there.
Mark Simmons was our speaker last meeting, a Bristol based photographer since 1985 Mark took us through some of the opportunities and causes he has been involved in over the last 30 years. He mainly concentrated on black and white work, though showed us some colour work of his too and posed some open ended questions, namely What makes a good photograph? and What comes next?
If I were to sum up Mark’s choices in photography in one word it would be “Eclectic“. Personal, political, spiritual, progressive, street, arts. He represents his world through the medium of the lens and monetarises it. It’s the way he makes his living. He talked about film and digital and whereas he is quite nostalgic for the former he works in the latter, though not exclusively. Black and white was really the choice when he started. Developing colour films has always been more involved, costly and time consuming than black and white and though perfectly feasible these factors meant that black and white was the only choice for those starting out developing their own images and those on a tight budget.
Now it is a no cost extra, ignored by many amateurs and often regarded as niche or specialist, with its own publications such as Adore Noire and even its own dedicated Leica camera line, the Monochrom Typ 246 range finder with a 50mm f1.2. Less complex in the sensor design it gives sharper results and less problems with artefacts (apparently). What is more one pixel on its monochrome sensor is doing the job of four (two greens one red one blue) on a colour sensor, so detail is more effectively rendered. It’s a snip at £4,500, but hey, it’s a Leica and you get a free Lightroom license with it. Whether this constitutes a bargain is contestable and it does rather reinforce the exclusive, arty view of black and white, even if it delivers a claimed 100% more detail than a colour sensor. This is a shame as black and white has its own aesthetics, its own strengths and it does get overlooked. For many of us I suspect it goes something like this….
“That would look better in black and white”. We’ve all said it. We’ve all done it. Sometimes we were right. Sometimes it was the fundamental composition that was wrong. Nothing to be done with that, apart from applying the delete button. If the fundamentals don’t work, no matter how much we wish them to, it’s a loss. I am not advocating not learning from our losses, that would be a chronic waste of time, but we don’t learn much from failing to rescue the not worth preserving to the status of still-should-have-pressed-the-delete-key-and-saved-x-hours, or, more succinctly, reviving the dead to the status of the un-dead. What that constitutes in reality is a matter of personal taste and judgement.
“That would look better in black and white”, or, if we are in posh company, or trying to sound like we know what we are talking about, monochrome,we have probably already taken the picture before the thought strikes. There is a solution, which I will come back to later, which at first is obvious, but which can make the most of both worlds and can make us look at things anew. First, however, it’s time to visit some things we already know, or at least know about. Is there a difference? I would say emphatically yes and the difference is knowing about something is being able to theorise that in these set of circumstances this will happen and owning that knowledge by using it with purpose and confidence. Learning is about the transition between one and the other and it’s not always obvious when we arrive at the latter.
Black and white is different from colour in the obvious and not so obvious. The obvious of course is the reduction in the colours we are presented with. More properly we are talking about the difference between grey scale and the gamut of colour our monitors generate – most likely sRGB. The black and the white represents extremes between which we have the grey scale. Absolute black and absolute white are theoretical points, but the question of how black is black and white is white need not concern us here. Our brains interpret these things and we get on with life. We are told that black and white makes us concentrate on subject, form, shape, tonality and texture. This is, of course, because colour has a range of psychological effects on the human brain. Physiologically we use the cones in the eye to see colours and rods black and white. Rods and cones are photoreceptors, like the pixels on a camera sensor, and take their names from their distinctive shapes. The rods and cones generate signals which the brain transforms into images to which it attaches meaning. The primary colours, in particular exercise a strong emotional effect on us, more so than the secondary colours.
Deprive the brain of these clues and it continues to search for meaning in patterns, which promotes the importance of subject through form, shape tonality and texture. We still connect but in a different way. If we are lucky the elements of form, shape, tonality and texture have already made their link if only subconsciously. Then, we might safely arrive sooner at the delayed conclusion “That would look better in black and white”.
Better yet is to start from the position of black and white, the technique I was referring to earlier, that is to say the camera is set to black and white deliberately at the point of capture. This is where a CSC really comes into its own with a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) viewfinder/screen as some, if not many DSLR’s render as black and white only after the event as an editing choice (in which case save it until you get home and do it on the computer). If shooting RAW and Jpeg with the JPEG set to black and white as default we don’t, on a CSC at least, loose the colour option as RAW files are rendered in colour by default. What we can learn is to see those forms, shapes tonalities and textures as a critical starting point not a lifeline to the already drowned.
A N N O U N C E M E N T S
Something worth your consideration if you ever want to take a picture in the street again is something called the Freedom of Panorama and it is under threat (sort of). You might also want to sign the petition at the bottom of the article .Freedom of Panorama. In the interests of balance I would also say is that this is at the consultation stage, hasn’t been presented to the European Parliament for any legislative action (yet) but it still needs consideration and this is your chance to make opposition felt before it has the chance to gain any momentum. I would also point out that Mr Wales has a vested interest in such a possibility being put in place and this is an opinion piece in the Guardian, not a piece of investigative journalism. So for a bit of balance I would also read this from Full Facts (and still sign it).
N E X T M E E T I N G – Important information.
Our season at the school has drawn to a close. Please check the events clandar on the club website for details of meetings over the summer.
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.
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:
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…