Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Why won't I leave me alone!?


Sometimes I just wish I could ignore my brain so I might be able to concentrate for ten minutes.

Meadowhell

Ended up at Meadowhell today, picking up a watch battery. Escaping from the unwashed masses to the seating area behind the Oasis was a very good idea.




Monday, 30 August 2010

Triptych

A common theme for wall-hanging pictures is triptych, or three related pictures that fit together to make a single piece of art. The most common way to do this in photography is to simply take a panoramic shot and split it into three parts. Another way is to take three pictures on a common theme. I've taken a mixture of the two techniques.

Today's picture is taken from the road above High Bradfield. I took three pictures from the same spot, but each framed to have a single subject in each picture. The weather was against me, sadly. If I'd gone out an hour earlier or an hour later the sun would have come out from behind the clouds and lit up the valley. At the only time I had available, it was grim and overcast. I've tried to make the best of it, though, and tried to capture three aspects of the village.



Just for giggles, I've also taken one in the "traditional" style using the panorama mode on my camera. It's nice enough, but it's a shame that I managed to include a telegraph pole in the final shot. Maybe moving 6 feet down the road would have improved it, but on the other hand it adds something to the image that could have just come out as a fairly wide angle view of a few buildings with no particular foreground focus. It works, anyway.


Sunday, 29 August 2010

The Clown Returns

One of my earliest memories of my grandmother's house was a strange glass clown. His odd proportions, swirly glass construction and surprisingly non-terrifying expression (I really do not like clowns) made him stick in my mind. My grandma sadly passed away last week, and I wanted to make sure this curiosity was preserved for sentimental reasons. And here he is, now standing in my fireplace, smiling away and giving small children nightmares. Much as he always has.


Saturday, 28 August 2010

Jelly Tots

One thing I've always fancied having a go at it underlit shiny things. In this case, Jelly Tots. I set up a strange rig consisting of a sheet of paper, a couple of upturned drinking glasses for support, some Sellotape and a flash gun diffused by bits of cut up milk bottle. Recipe for success? Well, no.


You can see shadowy bits in the lower right hand corner and a little on the right hand edge. This is just caused by improper lighting, really. I need to sort out my lighting situation. Also, the jelly tots themselves seem to be somewhat more opaque than I anticipated. I wanted them to appear to glow, but they just seem to float in mid-air. Here is a picture of the set up:


Weird. A proper lightbox would have sorted this out properly, maybe. And a better subject that didn't turn out to be opaque. Still, this project is all about learning, and today's pic is quite nice in its own right. Just not in the way I wanted!

Friday, 27 August 2010

Hands On Heart

Soppy one today. The theme for today's photo experiment was "hands". Hands are one of the most difficult things to photograph well. Very hard to pose, and without context can be difficult to interpret. This is part of the reason that well done hand portraits can be some of the most interesting and powerful.

The pic of the day is a cheesy cliché. My beautiful assistant stepped in to provide the other half and we tried a few different things. As expected, it was very difficult to get the right mix of posed and relaxed. I've added a border to prevent the photo seeming to end too vaguely and tie the whole picture together. It's actually a crop of a much larger picture, but the rest of it seemed to distract from the actual subject.


Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Block Puzzle

Today's topic is light, shadow and contrast. I used a small wooden block puzzle just because it's an interesting shape, and a slave flash because it lets me control direction, intensity and softness of the light. I covered the on-camera flash with a small box to make sure it didn't get in the way (the slave is light activated so I couldn't just turn it off, which is a shame).

I took a few pics, all in black and white to give a better sense of light and shade and not be distracted by colour. The one I have chosen is, technically, a terrible photo. The shadows are black, the light is pure white. It's blown out and horrible. But sometimes it's OK to bend the rules, and for the purposes of this project it's perfect. I like the gradual change from pure black to pure white across the diagonal leads the eye, and the texture on the wood came out perfectly.

This shot is one I made up while playing with putting the slave flash closer to the subject. I thought it would be cool to have the extremes of black and white visible in the picture.

As a (second) one-off special, I'm including two pictures today. This second one is the shot I originally intended to capture. It was hard to choose between them.

I'm not sure if the gradient grey backdrop adds to or detracts from the picture. Maybe a third flash to blow out the background while maintaining the foreground tones could have worked, but it may have just obliterated the shapes of the shadows of the blocks.

As yet another added bonus, I'm also including a 100% crop of the second photo to show the wood detail. It is in itself a pretty cool picture.


Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Rainy Day

It's raining today. Horrible. What happened to the beautiful weather from last week? Oh well, rain provides its own photo opportunities. Today I focused on what I could do with the raindrops that remained on the kitchen window once the shower had passed. This is the most processed photo so far; everything has has been pretty much "out of the camera" with only levels adjustment and minor cropping.

It's a composite of two shots. The first is a photograph of the flowers outside my kitchen window with the raindrops in focus. It's a fairly long telephoto with macro mode turned on, so about 100mm or so. I introduced a key into the scene to get the focus because I was having trouble focussing on the raindrops. Once a solid object was there, the autofocus had no issues getting it just right. The second is the same shot, but with the flowers in focus.

To put the two together, I overlayed them in The Gimp with the raindrops on the bottom. I set the top layer to "overlay" to produce the desired effect, then boosted saturation just a gnat's on the raindrops picture to make the blur of the flowers glow. I think it worked particularly well. It's worth clicking the image to see a larger version to see the detail in the raindrops. The individual drops cause the flower behind to come into sharp focus and remove the blurring and glow, making tiny, focussed images of each flower they obscure.

One thing I'm conscious of is the number of portrait oriented photographs in this project. I'm obviously a very vertically oriented person (being tall and thin might do that?) and find it easier to get the feel I want by holding the camera sideways. I seem to find it difficult to fill a landscape frame with detail, and end up with superfluous bits off the sides. Square cropping helps, but defeats the object of this project, which is to practice fixing my weaknesses. I think this one fills the frame nicely.


Monday, 23 August 2010

Get rid of Caps Lock on OS X

Caps Lock is cruise control for cool.

No, not really. It's a really annoying key because it's big, right next to a vowel, and means I accidentally type in caps on occassion. Why is it there?

A second problem I have with the Mac keyboard is the location of the control key. For most things on the Mac I don't need it, but I use Gimp for photo editing and that uses X11 and the Linux/Windows key mappings. I need a control key, but it's sat right in the corner near Fn and Option and it's hard to reach, even with my pinky finger.

So here I will demonstrate how I fixed both problems in one go. It's ridiculously easy (easier than Windows and Linux) as it's a standard option. Open up System Preferences, go to Keyboard and click Modifier Keys ...
I just set the Caps Lock key to be a second Control key. Now I can press ctrl-X, ctrl-S, ctrl-E and all the other most common Gimp shortcuts without having to contort my little finger under my hand while trying to miss the Option key. Perfect.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Wedded Bliss

Thursday's pic of the day has proven very hard to choose. Got some lovely pictures from the wedding of two of my best friends, so here are three of the best. I'm not going to updating for a few days, but normal service should resume on Monday.



Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Sunny day

Due to various stresses and pressures, I felt the need to go out for a bit at dinner time today. I headed out toward Bradfield and the sun shining on the fields was lovely. I could have easily spent all day there, taking pictures and finding new vantage points. The village itself looked wonderful in the sunshine, and the water in the reservoir was sparkling blue. Unfortunately, I only get an hour for lunch so didn't have time to take in the sights, or even photograph them as I whizzed past in the car. However, I did take this one to try and capture what sort of day it is. Levels adjusted, and bracketed exposures to expose for the field and the sky, put together in Gimp. Also boosted the saturation a bit as it was somewhat flat.


Starry Starry Night

Another late one today. This time approximately midnight, looking out from the back yard to see the stars. This one needed the camera to perform well at night, which it sort of did. Aperture wide open, 8 second exposure, ISO 400. Ideally I'd have had a 30 second exposure at ISO 64, but sadly 8 seconds is all I can get out of it. Might have to retry later with my other kit to see if I can replicate with less noise. Did a little bit of post work to bring out the sky a little and get rid of the yellow tint caused by the street lamps. Nothing too major. Just a bit of curves adjustment.


Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Purified In Blood

Last night's entertainment was a heavy trio of metal bands, Nottingham's Merciless Terror, Sheffield's own Opinicus, and Norwegian metalcore band Purified In Blood. We first got wind of the gig through Plusnet, where both I and two members of Opinicus were working at the time.

It was tough going, photography-wise. There were a few other people with bigger, fancier cameras than mine who were having equal trouble with the almost non-existent lighting. Even at ISO 1600 or higher it was still taking a half second or so to expose, which is no good when the band is thrashing about like lunatics. For instance, the picture on the right here is Dale Linsdell of Merciless Terror mid-windmill.

Fortunately the lighting improved somewhat for Purified In Blood, but not greatly. I will still shooting at a range of ISO settings from 400 to 6400. At the 6400 end the image was so grainy as to be unusable, so I stepped down to 800 and 1600 just to try and make the best of it.

So really it was all down to timing. I was destined to have a dangerously slow shutter speed no matter what I tweaked, so it was just a case of waiting for ideal lighting. On very few occassions, it actually happened. Today's picture of the day is Glenn Cato Rasmussen of Purified In Blood in full swing. 1/4 second exposure at f4.4, approx. 35mm focal length (35mm equiv. Actual 14.7mm with 1/2.3" sensor).



Sunday, 15 August 2010

Peggin' It

Today is a day of not much exciting. The way Sundays are supposed to be. So today's pic is of a very mundane subject, but hopefully presented in an interesting way. A bit of shallow depth of field on the pegs on my line, swooping back to the wall behind. I arranged the pegs so they'd appear to swirl anticlockwise in a spiral as they went slowly out of focus. Having the first peg out of focus and slightly off frame adds to the impression of the line coming in from behind the photographer on the left.



Saturday, 14 August 2010

Weedy

Bit of an uninspiring day today. I started off with good intentions, aiming to experiment with fill flash seeing as it was a very bright day. Good opportunity to fine tune my judgement of best using flash to fill in overly dark detail. Unfortunately, I ended up not having much time to experiment.

However, I did notice some brightly coloured flowers that have taken over my ex-pond. It's filled with bricks and stones now, and these flowers have popped up all by themselves around it. This is the best of a few quick shots I took, but I'm not 100% happy with any of them. The composition feels messy and cluttered, and there's not a lot to draw you into the picture. I tried to include one of the protruding house bricks I used to fill in the pond just for a little interest.


One thing I'm trying to do is come up with a "theme" for each day. Today's was going to be fill flash. No idea what tomorrow's will be. I'll sleep on it.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Finally home

Trains are not my favourite things at the moment. Two journeys delayed by an hour each in two days due to train staff not turning up. However, trains do provide very good photo opportunities. Today's photo is an exercise in converging lines. The high speed train made standing still an interesting experience, too.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Golden Morning

Today's photo was taken very early in the day indeed. 6am, in fact. I was on my way to the train station and, realising that I'd missed the 5:56 to Luton, opted to go for the 6:27 to Leicester and get a connecting train. This gave me a little while to myself, and as I drove down Pitsmoor Road the yellow morning sun reflecting off the clouds caught my eye. The start of a rainbow completed the picture, so I pulled over and took a couple of quick snaps to try and capture what I could of the 135° panorama before me. A high ISO combines nicely with the golden tint to give the whole thing an old fashioned feel, and a gentle unsharp mask with a panoramic crop finishes the job.


Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Wall-E says "Hi!"

After the cutlery, I decided to try and take a picture of something more interesting. Here's Wall-E. Well, a 2" model of him, anyway. Piece of paper and a slave flash makes for a fairly effective miniature studio for the diminutive little fella.
Hello.

365 Photos

I feel the need for a project. I also have a new camera to play with. So putting 2 and 2 together, I've made approximately 4, and decided to do one of the ever popular "365 photos" projects. I will publish one photograph every day for a year to document the goings on of my mundane existence, and to practice taking pictures of things. Of course, I might take more than one a day, but usually only one will make it to this blog.

Here is today's picture, to start us off:

Yep, not an exciting start, I know. I washed the pots. Although to be fair, I've been putting it off for 4 days so there were a lot of pots.

Hope tomorrow's is more exciting.

Monday, 2 August 2010

This Poem Is Brought to You By the Letter S

Here is a really, really bad poem. Every word begins with S, because that's what Plinky told me to do.

Seven stoic Samurai,
Saddled somewhat stiffly,
Sit staring southward.

South of the Samurai,
Stark strongholds
Solemnly stand.

Spurred suddenly,
Samurai storm south,
Slender swords shining.

Striking strong,
Screams, skirmishes,
Sickening silence.

Samurai standing still.
Stronghold subdued.
Sun slowly setting.