Friday, November 28, 2008

Aya Sophia Lights

Taken at the Aya Sophia (Hagia Sophia) in Istanbul.

Playing with my new 50mm prime lens. As you'd expect it was very limited light in the interior of the building.

I was drawn to the curlicue lights, the bulbs and that not all were working. Again, I liked the very tight depth of field from the prime lens.

I don't mind the slight lens flare...

What do you think?

f/1.6 1/80sec ISO200

Roots On Venice Beach

Taken 11am on a very bright sunny morning on Venice Beach, LA.

A four piece blues band were busking and I could get in quite close. Liked this shot with the focus as the drummer's hat and the Roots logo. The more obvious shot was the classic look of the vocalist, however I liked dropping him out through the depth of field...

I think it works well in mono.

f/5.6 1/640 ISO200


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Early winter

Sorry it's been a while since I've posted. Here are a couple. Nothing too spectacular, just a couple of quickies from our big snow storm last weekend.

First: I think I was hoping for more with the icicles. I think the crop helped as there was a lot of other stuff in the frame, but I don't think this is a jump-out-at-you shot. Discuss: how would you have improved it?

Second: One of those snapshot-of-the-pets that appeals mostly to the petowner. I did a little editing with this one, such as removing the fence in the background. I also saturated the horse a bit extra using some layer ideas I got while reading about HDR. I wanted to make the horse look a little more vibrant compared to the surroundings, while not overdoing it, and cropped out the foreground that was basically a bunch of snow. Thoughts? Maybe I should post the original too.

Plus I'll add some quick comments to recent posts here. (i) Love your sandwich bay crop, Damian! (ii) The HDR images: very impressive! I like #2 the best for similar reasons, though #1 is pretty spectacular too. I don't care much for the rocks on the right, though. (iii) Ivan: the Cambridge at night pictures are gorgeous! Shame about the branch in the second one. I do like the first one as well, though, and think that the strange hues and dark foreground give the image a neat eerie feel. Well done!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Another viewpoint on Sandwich Bay

If I saw what Ivan saw on Sandwich Bay this is what I would have done. Just a different viewpoint.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Light in the Valley

Another shot from the Shropshire archives. This one taken on that recent October trip this year. This was shot from a good distance away, using the telephoto image-stabilised lens all the way out to 600mm.

Lovely light picking out the relief of the land, and the detail of the wet road in the middle slight dip is visible as a nice feature. Great land contours and overall quite pleased with this one.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Sandwich Bay - yet another mono

I took lots of pictures of the wet sand patterns when we were there a few weeks ago. I was thinking that, with some post-capture work, they'd come out quite nice, and I think they have.

Enough Sandwich Bay monos..for now.


Another from Sandwich Bay

A colour one this time. Concentrating on the wet sand shapes and clouds.

I processed two RAW files to tiffs, then blended them in PS, with some dodging and burning to bring out the contrast in the wet sand patterns. Lightened the strip of sand to enhance the effect. It's more punchy than I saw it, but I like the image.


I see lots of HDR images on Flickr. Some of them are great; subtle blending of carefully chosen images to gain a wider exposure range than the camera can normally handle - done well, they should look pretty much like how the eye sees dynamic range (ca. 12 stops) rather than the usual 4-6 stops of digital sensors.

Some of them are total shit. I mean, really freaky looking, and used in circumstances where the contrast range wouldn't be that wide, so they end up looking like high saturation, low contrast crap. Pointless.

I have posted three images, none of them (repeat NONE OF THEM) mine, but all described as HDR on Flickr. I think these are all at the Good end of the spectrum, but I have my fave, and for a reason. Which is your fave, and why, in the context of what you think about HDR images.

I sometimes blend two tiffs (derived from separate workings of the same RAW file) together, to achieve a more natural exposure, but I've never tried - or felt the need - for HDR. CS doesn't do HDR, but I know later versions do.

Have you guys tried this, and, if so, what do you think? Do you have any HDR images to post? If not, what blending techniques do you use?



Flickr stats revisited

A while ago, I posted to the blog my thoughts about how I could use Flickr to help me choose/confirm choices for up-coming competitions. Of course, this means I need to get those images on Flickr a good deal before the competitions. Failing that, I can always look back with hindsight, and see if the placings (or not) in competitions match up to the "interest" in an image, as calculated by Flickr.

Below is a screenshot of the most recent stats for my photostream on Flickr. The "star" means favourite by another user, and the bubble means "comment".

Interesting that Window and Chair and Sunset Beach Walkers are up there (in 1st and 3rd place); these did v well for me last year. Bath Crescent is second, but did nothing last year (although did get selected for the Annual Exhibition this year), so not full agreement with the Flickr stats. White Peacock bombed in a recent projected image competition, although is 4th on Flickr. Reculver got a Highly Commended, and it's 5th on Flickr, so not bad there. Shadowman, 6th on Flickr, won me Creative Image of the Year in 2007. Peek-a-boo (Flickr 21) got me a 3rd place, but it's not been on Flickr as long.

So, mixed bag. I think I need to standardise things. I need to submit all images to the same Pools (for exposure to wider Flickr) and then track the interest for a set period of time. I assume views = interest, comments = more interest and favs = more still, which is kind of how Flickr works it out. Also, I think I need to standardise the tags on images. This is almost impossible, since different images need different tags, unless I pick very generic ones (like camera model) or don't use tags at all for all images.

Interesting from yesterday's Cambridge night posts, the order is Kings 1, River Cam 2, Clare Bridge 3, which is what Dams thought too.

Still, useful to see some rough agreement between results and Flickr, but it's not statistically controlled, so impossible to draw any conclusions as currently running.

Thoughts? Suggestions?


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Clare Bridge

Another image from last night.

Clare College Bridge (1640)

Info from Wikipedia:

The oldest of Cambridge's current bridges, this bridge in classical style was built in 1639–40 by Thomas Grumbold (d.1659). It survives as the oldest due to all its contemporaries being destroyed by the parliamentarian forces in the Civil War, to make the town of Cambridge more defensible. Many different stories are told to explain the missing section of the globe second from the left on the south side of the bridge. One rumour is that the builder of the bridge received (what he considered to be) insufficient payment, and in his anger, removed a segment of the globe.

I cropped it quite tightly on top, as there were lots of distractions above - is it too tight? What do you think...?


Cambridge by night

Last night, a chum and I headed off to take some long exposure night shots around Cambridge. It was really to help him learn his new DSLR (Nikon D300, the one with the great high ISO performance), since he's quite new to photography, and never had a DSLR before. I was hampered by the fact that I have lost the tripod shoe to attach my camera to the tripod, so had to balance the camera on whatever structures were available. Not ideal, but I coped.

The first image was taken near the Mill pond, by balancing the camera on the camera bag, so quite low down. Long exposure (30", f9, 400 ISO). Got some nice colours and soft movement on the river and sky. It was very dark indeed, so focussing was an issue. I can't rely on manual focus due to wearing glasses, so I locked on to one of the distant lights as a focus point. I also used the live view, but this was bad in such low light to focus.

The next image was again 30", f9, 1SO 400. This was balanced on fence post. The original RAW was very close to this image, but slightly darkened the sky (one RAW processing) and slightly adjusted the foreground and buildings (a second processing of the RAW), and blended the resultant tiffs in PS. I then cloned out some distracting grasses that were right in front of the camera and blurry, adjusted levels, cropped a little and then the image was complete. Quite like this one. It's a shame about the bright branches upper right, but couldn't be avoided due to where I had to place the camera. I considered cloning them out, but couldn't face the hours that would take...

Comments welcomed.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Missing in Action

Anyone know the whereabouts of Stasher1 (last seen 04 October 2008) or, more worryingly, DXBluey (last seen 03 September 2008).

Even Gareth has been very quiet of late. Now, he changed jobs in early October and has had "the shits" for the last week, but that doesn't explain it fully...

Stasher has changed jobs too (in September), and God knows what's happened to "I'll post a lot more now that I have an SLR" DXBluey...

Hope these guys are OK - can they check in sometime...we're worried.

Stat Fest!

A new website resource for assessing key elements of your DSLRs performance, with the ability to compare other models.

Makes interesting reading, esp the bit about high ISO performance - gives the highest ISO above which image quality (as defined in the blurb) becomes unacceptable. Shows that most high ISOs in consumer and enthusiast SLRs (i.e ours!) are really just spec-dressing (like high pixel counts in compacts) and offer little real ultility, until to you get to pro-spec cameras. For example, the 450D and 40D come in the 690-710 ISO range, while the Nikon D700 is at 2303.

This tallies with what I have found; that using ISO up to 400 is brilliant, 800 is OK (as it's just above the 692 calculated for the 450D) and can be worked on with software, but 1600 is quite noisy at times, and I refrain from using it.

That said, high ISO is really only useful for sports, action and wedding photography, so it's not an issue. Landscapers can use a tripod, stick it on 100-400 ISO, and get great image quality in RAW.


Monday, November 17, 2008

A Larger View

Here is a larger view of the screen shot. Now, the file was saved as a JPEG and I have saved it as a JPEG several times so there will have been degradation of both images somewhat. Damian

Friday, November 14, 2008

More (or less) noise

So I have done something similar as Ivan to show how Camera Raw 4 handles noise for comparison with the Canon software. The image was taken outside at 530 in the morning in May so still quite dark. It was shot with my Canon 40D, fixed 50mm 1.4 lens, 1/60 at f2.0 and the ISO was at 3200. The first screen shot shows the unprocessed RAW file zoomed in at 165%. So you can see noise in the sky and along the edges of the building. The second screen shot shows the imagealso at zoom 165% but processed in Camera RAW 4. All I have done is reduced the luminance and colour noise, and corrected any colour aberrations. No other adjustments were made. Now, I didn't spend a lot of time on the processing so you can consider this as a minimal result.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Roaches

I'm not sure if I've posted this image before, so I did a quick search and I don't think so.

Anyway, an image taken a few years ago in the Peak District National Park. A lovely place, increasingly overrun with Manks (look that up).

The Roaches are a collection of rock formations/hills of particular scenic interest.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Another excercise in croppage

Which one do you prefer, and why?


Note: the images are soft/unsharp - ignore that. It's the cropping I'm interested in.


River Cam, Grantchester Meadows, a few weeks back. Works better in mono than colour. False (PS) bokeh - does it work?



Now, most of you know I'm a Scotsman - cut me in half, and, like a stick of rock, it'll say ALBA all the way through. But, I've been down here in the land of the Sassenachs for nearly 16 years, living and working; when asked, I'll say I'm only here because there are not enough clever English people to do the work, but I'm only kidding.

Scotland has it's own rugged beauty. No doubt. But this shot - which I found in my archives - sums up England in all it's rural, verdant beauty. Doesn't matter where it is, it's gorgeous.

Enjoy. Rule Brittania!


Noise? What noise?

A screenshot showing a before and after noise reduction on a shot taken whilst in Shropshire.

The shot was taken at 1600 ISO, and is noisy. It's been brightened to show the ISO artifacts.

The after shot has been brightened by the same amount, but has had luminance and chroma noise adjusted too, using the Canon Digital Photo Professional. It's lost a little detail, but the effects are pretty good, I think.

What experience do you have with noise reduction software?


Monday, November 10, 2008


My entry for this week is this photo showing hoof prints over the top of a dune on Sable Island. Shot on 14 January 2006 at close to 5pm. 1/60th at f4.0, ISO 200, focal=17mm I tried in both colour and BW and much prefer the latter.  All editing was done in Camera RAW (basic stuff like temperarture, levels, contrast) and the image was converted to BW in PS. Damian

original, RAW image

after editing

Friday, November 07, 2008

Photo Credit

Again, on a trawl, I found these. My two published guidebook images. For an Alistair Sawday's Travel Guide. The owner of the Castello (where we had our honeymoon in 2004) saw me taking pics, and asked if he could use them in the upcoming edition. I said yes, and when we got back, it was confirmed by the publisher, and I got a free copy with my photo credit. Both images are mine, although only one credits me. No money involved, only prestige...and they spelled my name right - thank God.


Play ball with me?

A shot of a friends dog, Dolly, taken recently.

Very high ISO (1600, not so high these days, I guess), and converted to mono.

She waits with the ball in her lap, patiently, for someone to play!


Before and After

Sometimes it's interesting to see how an image started, as well as the final output. I think it may be instructional to do a few of these, and get comments on both the image before and after, the artistic/photographic process, and the techniques involved.

The pair here, I used the shadow/highlight function to lift the dark shadows of the pier. Then, I used levels to bring the sky and some of the mid-tones of the sea back, to balance a bit.

Not a great image, but I think it's improved for these manipulations, which are only possible in post-processing, not in capture.

Before - deep shadows on Pier, lack of contrast in sky:

After - lifting of shadows selectively on Pier, more contrast in sky and better tone in sea:


My first digital picture

I found this a few days ago, while looking through old files.

Taken in 2001, with a Canon PowershotS S40, which was a market-leading, 4MP compact camera with manual AND RAW (almost unheard of in non-DSLRs, and there weren't many DSLRs either...). And it cost nearly £700!! I traded that in for a Nikon Coolpix 5400 (shit camera, put me off Nikon for life, which is daft), then the 350D (which was great) and now the 450D. In that time, it's gone from 4MP compact to 12MP DSLR, and price has come down nearly by half. Progress, eh?

I think this was taken about 100 yds from my old place in Kent, when the battery was charged up and I headed outside. It's a crap picture, but I was trying to capture the movement in the wheat. At least the horizon is not bang in the middle...


Another from the Critical Light vaults...

This post, and resultant comment, is one of my faves, as it covers photo critique and aspects of workflow too. Good back and forth between myself, Dams and G.

"What are you thinking...?"


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

My picks of the three years

Well, I quickly ran through all of the blogs and chose those images that jumped out at me, for the WOW factor and the memories. Most are from Ivans' blogs which is not surprising given the number he has posted. Here they are...

Few pics to end week
Specifically the St. Margaret's Headland, Kent, UK pic. This shot is excellent and I don't seem to remember seeing it but I really like it. Great texture, great colours, great mood and interesting composition.

The first shot. I still like this shot and seems to bring nack memories of the early blogs. 
Of all of the Miksang blogs, this one takes the biggest chunk for me, and biggest effort from Ivan.
The chocolate face is excellent.
Love the sky of this shot and the immensity of space.

And this one

Lighten Up!
I don't recall this shot either but really like it. Different composition for a flower pic and nice and bright. 


Monday, November 03, 2008


Last year while sailing in Halifax I shot this picture as we sailed under the bridge. It was around 5pm. It works better in BW than colour. I like it.

1/60th at f18.0. ISO 400. F=41mm