About stevenmbeard

Musselburgh Camera Club 56

11 February 2021 (Set Subject Competition – Landscapes)

The second of our 3-part set subject competition took place this week. The subject was “Landscapes”, and the competition was judged by Jennifer Davidson, one of last year’s winners. There were 48 images altogether, entered by 16 members. There are fewer opportunities for capturing good landscape images during current restrictions. Some members had submitted views from their local environment, but most images came from trips members had made in the past. There were many Scottish landscapes, ranging from East Lothian to Skye, along with scenes captured overseas as far away as the USA, Iceland, Southern Africa and New Zealand.

Jennifer commented on the composition of each image, with some compositions becoming stronger when cropped to make their main subject off-centre. In some cases, a sloping horizon, or the presence of dust spots, caused a distraction. Some images contained distracting features, such as dead trees, foreground weeds, or too many people, which could have been removed by cloning or by waiting for a better opportunity. There were also some examples of poor cloning, and Jennifer recommended always going over a cloned area a second time to look for duplicate features or areas which stand out because they are sharper or softer than their surroundings. She also recommended checking the direction of light and shadows within a composite image. The most frequent comment was about the sharpness of the images. Most landscape images need to be sharp from foreground to horizon. While some images (such as of crashing waves or fleeting mist) could be hand-held grab shots, landscape images are best taken using a tripod and a narrow aperture to give a good depth of field.

The top scorers were (in reverse order):

  • 5th place (50 points)
    • Steve Williams
  • 4th place (51 points)
    • Malcolm Roberts
  • 3rd place (52 points)
    • Joe Fowler
  • 2nd place (54 points)
    • Gordon Davidson
  • 1st place (55 points)
    • George Todd

The top images were:

  • View from the Crags (Joe Fowler) – 20 points
  • Alftavatn Lake Boat House (George Todd) – 20 points
  • Pentlands Weather (Malcolm Roberts) – 19 points
  • Milarochy Sunset (Gordon Davidson) – 19 points
  • Kincardine Sunset (Gordon Davidson) – 19 points
  • Kalahari Desert and Lone Oryx (George Todd) – 18 points
  • View from Traprain Law (Carol Edmund) – 18 points

Well done to George Todd, who wins the right to judge next year’s competition! The league table after two competitions looks like this:

George Todd (53 + 55 = 108)
Malcolm Roberts (56 + 51 = 107)
Gordon Davidson (53 + 54 = 107)
Steve Williams (54 + 50 = 104)
Joe Fowler (– + 52 = ??)
Anne Yeomans (53 + 48 = 101)
Mike Clark (50 + 49 = 99)
Carol Edmund (49 + 49 = 98)

Only 1 point separates George Todd from the rest of the field. Entries for the final part of the competition (“Flowers and Horticulture”) are due on 4th March 2021.

 

Software and Licencing for Audio Visual Presentations

After the audio visual evening we discussed the software used to create audio visual presentations. I use Proshow Producer, which has now been replaced by Photopia (https://photopia.nl/proshow/), a subscription-based application. Beeslack recommended a utility called WNSoft PTE AV Studio 10 (https://www.wnsoft.com/en/pte-av-studio/), which can generate shows for Windows, Apple and Android devices.


Stephen Williams has also found the following free video creation applications for people interested in creating AV presentations and sends this message to members:

They are relatively intuitive, but they each have their pros and cons.  They are available as portable versions (PortableApps.com) which I prefer, or you can download installable versions directly from the provider’s websites.  Both of these struggled to work on my 7-year old AMD laptop (running Windows 10), but ran on my 2-year old i7 laptop (also running Windows 10).

OpenShot (https://www.openshot.org/)

Bright, intuitive interface (drag images, videos and audio files into the project file area, then drag down to the timeline, right click to add transitions and effects – see the quick user guide before you start at https://www.openshot.org/user-guide/).  I found that the software kept crashing, but it seemed to remember where it was when it reloaded.  However, maybe I was just trying to push it too hard.  I was unable to access the Preferences menu where I might have been able tweak the settings to stop this happening – I don’t know why, this may just be a bug with the current version.  Others might have more luck.

Shotcut (https://shotcut.org/)

This has a more cluttered interface on first opening, but ultimately the process is more or less the same as OpenShot.  Check out the short video on how to use it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtsB2iZRb9c&feature=emb_logo – this is essential even just to get going.  Adding effects are a bit more fiddly – you need to create Keyframes and how you want the image to look at both the start and end of the effect period and the software then interpolates, but ultimately this is more flexible than OpenShot.  Transitions between slides were easier to implement, but the options were more limited than OpenShot (but there are only so many garish transitions that you can tolerate anyway).  One other nice thing was that once you reopened a saved project and added more slides to the end of the timeline, as long as the original audio track was long enough it filled in the gap – with OpenShot you were left with blank audio and would need to reimport the original longer audio track.  Crucially for me the software was stable, not crashing during use.  So although it took longer to learn how to what I wanted it to do, this was the better choice for me.


Finally, Beeslack member John Barnett has drawn our attention to the website of the IAC Film and Video Institute (https://www.theiac.org.uk/),  where you can find advice and purchase an audio dubbing licence for video presentations.

 

4 February 2021 (Audio Visual Evening)

This week Musselburgh Camera Club hosted the annual audio visual evening with Beeslack Penicuik Camera Club.  Normally we host these evenings from the large G6 room at Fisherrow, but this year the evening was held virtually by Zoom teleconference. There were 33 participants, and our internet bandwidth held up enough to show 7 audio visual presentations.

The evening began with a Beeslack presentation on the Scottish Enlightenment, with stories and portraits of the key figures involved and its effect on the present day.  There followed a Musselburgh presentation made during the first lockdown in 2020, which showed that by staying close home you can discover and appreciate new details in your environment, such as the Prestonpans murals trail and battle memorials.  There followed some close encounters with wild animals photographed at Edinburgh Zoo and a wildlife park in Australia, accompanied by a great natural sound track.  Musselburgh reprieved a show on the demolition of Cockenzie Power Station, made back in 2015. The story had become relevant again because the demolition of the boilerhouse at Longannet Power Station was in the news.  Beeslack then showed a great presentation on Roslyn Chapel, which included drone footage and a mixture of outdoor and indoor shots.  Musselburgh reprieved a show about the first flight by the Wright Brothers, and the evening finished with the heroic story of William Ned Barnie, who served in the First World War, swam the channel and now has a street in Portobello named after him.

It was a pleasure to be able to host a joint meeting and chat with Beeslack members afterwards. We wish we could have offered them some tea and cakes, but I hope we can do so when we next host this meeting in 2 years. Next year the meeting is hosted by Beeslack.

 

28 January 2021 (Pecha Kucha Evening)

On 28th January the club had its annual “Pecha Kucha” evening, where members bring along 10 images of their choice and spend 20 seconds describing each image. The Zoom format was particularly well-suited to this kind of evening, with members able to show the images from their own computers, rather than bringing them along to Fisherrow.

The evening began with a cloning demonstration to supplement the advice given during the Nature and Wildlife set subject competition.  Steven showed how the clone stamp tool (shown below) can be used to copy shapes and textures from one part of an image to another using Photoshop (as shown below). The key thing to remember is that once you have sampled a point (by clicking the brush on the image while holding the ALT key) and then started painting on the image (by clicking the brush somewhere else) the two points keep the same relationship. It is like moving around the yellow dumb-bell shape shown in the picture.

Some cloning tips:

  • Cloning will be easier if the size of the area you are overwriting is smaller than the size of the area you are copying.
  • Watch out for repeating patterns, or broken edges, which give away the fact you have cloned an image.  Zoom in and clone the area again with a smaller brush to remove the patterns.
  • Use a soft brush at 100% opacity. (If you need to eliminate distractions in a blurred background, try the healing brush instead of the clone stamp. It works in a similar way but automatically blends the result.)
  • For the best results work slowly and carefully, and make sure that straight lines stay straight. If you work in a separate layer you can undo any changes that don’t look right.

After the cloning demonstration we began the Pecha Kucha evening.

Steven Beard showed photographs he had taken while visiting the Crawford Collection at the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh. This rare collection of books is seldom seen by the public.

John West described his journey into photography, showing his first camera and the photographs he had taken to entertain his children, including an impressive collection of paperclip figures.

Gavin Marshall showed us photographs he had taken of an amazingly detailed dolls house he had seen while visiting a historic building in Dalkeith. He also showed us the impressive fireplace at Cragside.

Jennifer Davidson also described how she had ventured into photography and showed some of her earlier contributions to the club. She recommended the Tough Mudder event for capturing images of human spirit under endurance.

Lorraine Roberts showed us images from Gullane beach and some photographs of impressive ice textures she had discovered at Musselburgh Lagoons.

Malcolm Roberts showed some beautiful reflections captured at the Gosford Estate and Musselburgh Lagoons, and a panoramic view from a golf course near Gullane.

Carol Edmunds showed some of the favourite photographs she had taken, including a rare rally car seen in a B&Q car park and a portrait of Colin Baker she had captured captured at a Comic Con event.

Thank you to everybody who brought along their special images to entertain us.

 

 

21 January 2021 (Building The Queensferry Crossing, In Pictures)

This week we had the pleasure of inviting Gordon Terris of the The Herald to visit us and talk about his experiences as a photo journalist covering the construction of the Queensferry Crossing.  Click the links below to read Gordon’s profile and see one of the stories illustrated by his photography.

https://www.heraldscotland.com/author/profile/73316.Gordon_Terris/

https://www.heraldscotland.com/opinion/15504954.a-fine-feat-of-engineering/

Gordon explained how he had been inspired to take up photography at the Edinburgh College of Art, before joining The Herald in 1996. Gordon is well known by his colleagues for owning a pair of Sean Connery’s underpants!  Gordon also enjoys fashion photography and showed us some examples of his work shot on Gullane beach and Aberlady Bents, plus a creative shot made in the Edinburgh Camera Obscura. Gordon uses minimal equipment, and can get by with just 2 speedlights and a reflector.

Gordon then took us through the story of his coverage of the building of the Queensferry Crossing.  As a journalist, he had the opportunity to view the construction from viewpoints that were not available to the public. He photographed the construction of the caissons which provided the foundations of the bridge, and he joined some of the construction team in their crane-hoisted “cherry-picker”, which offered unique views of the construction below. He also photographed the bridge construction from the shore and from distant viewpoints in Edinburgh and Fife. The one view that eluded him was an aerial shot of the bridge, which was too close to “no fly” zones for drone photography.

Gordon explained how photography for journalism is very different from hobby photography. Opportunity, speed and accuracy are key factors in photo-journalism, Gordon needs to make sure he is the right place at the right time. His shots need to tell the story, and they must be delivered to the editor as soon as possible. Often the newspaper would have a story waiting to go with a slot ready to receive one of his photographs. For this reason, Gordon shoots in JPEG and very rarely uses Photoshop. For him, each shot needs to be captured accurately in-camera and be ready for delivery as soon as he has finished shooting.

Gordon finished his presentation by showing us some of his equipment (over the Zoom video). He has two camera bodies: an old Canon EOS 1DX and a newer Canon 5D Mk II.  He uses 3 lenses: 16-35mm and 70-200mm zoom lenses and a 300mm fixed focal length lens. He occasionally borrows an 11mm fish-eye for creative shots, or for shots in awkward spaces.

Overall it was a fascinating and enjoyable evening. We hope to invite Gordon back to hear more of his stories when we are able to meet face to face, and get a closer look at his well-used but functional equipment.

14 January 2021 (Human Portrait Print Competition)

This week we had the digital replacement for our human portrait print competition. The competition was judged by Simon Wooton of Midlothian Camera Club. Click on the link below to see Simon’s gallery of landscape, sport and wildlife images.

Simon Wooton’s image gallery.

13 members had entered 38 digital images of people. There were portraits of individuals and group portraits. The group portraits worked better when they told a story of people interacting together, rather than just people who happened to be standing near to each other.  A group of people taking a selfie in the botanical gardens while their baby looks away bored out of shot told a story, as did the shot of two tired young girls in stained and crumpled party dresses sitting on the doorstep.  Simon particularly liked the shots of happy people enjoying life, as an antidote to the current situation. He expected shots taken in a studio to have a higher technical quality than spontaneous shots made in the street. Some portraits had distracting accessories, and Simon recommended hiding shoulder straps from bags that were not visible and removing objects that poked out from behind someone’s head. In some shots harsh lighting had lost detail in the highlights, or had cast a shadow onto the eyes, while other dull shots could be improved with a levels adjustment. Focussing and sharpness were an issue for some shots. It was important to focus on the subject and avoid camera shake, but also important not to oversharpen facial features. The framing of each image was important, and Simon suggested a tighter crop or a different placement of the background in some shots. Despite his enjoyment of the group shots, it was the individual portraits that won the day.

The top scorers were (in reverse order):

  • 5th place (47 points)
    • Gordon Davidson
    • Gavin Marshall
  • 4th place (49 points)
    • Steven Beard
  • 3rd place (50 points)
    • Joe Fowler
    • Steve Williams
  • 2nd place (52 points)
    • Mike Clark
  • 1st place (54 points)
    • George Todd
    • Carol Edmund

The top images were:

  • An Old Gentleman (Carol Edmund) – 20 points
  • Temple Boy (George Todd) – 19 points
  • I’m in Trouble (Mike Clark) – 19 points
  • Prabhu – Temple Warden (George Todd) – 18 points
  • The Joker (Mike Clark) – 18 points
  • The Basket Weaver (Steve Williams) – 18 points
  • Black Lives Matter (Carol Edmund) – 18 points

Well done to George Todd and an especially warm well done to Carol Edmund, who wins a trophy in only her second year at the club.

07 January 2021 (Set Subject Competition – Nature and Wildlife)

The second half of our 2020-2021 season opened with the first of our 3 set subject competitions: competition A on the subject of “Nature and Wildlife”. The competition was judged by Joe Fowler, one of last year’s winners.

45 images had been entered by 15 members.  Unlike last year’s competition on the theme of “Wildlife”, this year’s “Nature” category covers a wider variety of subjects showing or representing the natural environment. There were a lot of bird images, photographs of insects on flowers, some farm animals and a selection of other animals and plants.  Joe commented on composition, exposure and sharpness of each image. Some of the images were spoiled by distractions which Joe recommended the author clone out by copying textures from elsewhere in the image. Sticks, bright blobs and foreground blades of grass were notable distractions. Some images were a little overexposed, due to capturing them in full sunlight, which had burned out the highlights.  Joe recommended cloning texture to recover detail in lost highlights and using the dodge tool to bring up detail that had been lost in shadow. The best images were the ones that were well-framed, well-lit, had fewer distractions, were sharp in the right places but showed some movement where expected.

The top scorers were (in reverse order):

  • 5th place (49 points)
    • Carol Edmund
  • 4th place (50 points)
    • Mike Clark
  • 3rd place (53 points)
    • George Todd
    • Gordon Davidson
    • Anne Yeomans
  • 2nd place (54 points)
    • Steve Williams
  • 1st place (56 points)
    • Malcolm Roberts

The top images were:

  • Green Violet-Ear Hummingbird (Steve Williams) – 20 points
  • Puffin With Sandeels (Anne Yeomans) – 20 points
  • Great Spotted Woodpecker (Malcolm Roberts) – 19 points
  • Nuthatch (Malcolm Roberts) – 19 points
  • Hornbill at Sunset (George Todd) – 19 points
  • Hover Fly (Gordon Davidson) – 19 points

Well done to Malcolm Roberts, who wins the right to judge next year’s competition.

This is the first in a 3-part competition. The next instalments are “Landscapes” (hand-in date 21st January 2021) and “Flowers and Horticulture” (hand-in date 4th March 2021). The final result depends on the total score from the best 2 competitions, with Malcolm, Steve, George, Gordon and Anne now standing at the top of the league table.

10 December 2020 (Black and White Print Competition)

On Thursday, 10th December we had our virtual replacement for the black and white print competition. The competition was judged by Doug Berndt of Edinburgh Photographic society.  15 members had entered a total of 60 JPEG images. Doug explained that his job as judge was to put the images in a pecking order, and every judge has their own opinion. He judged each image on its composition, impact and story, together with any technical issues; although minor technical issues wouldn’t prevent a great image getting a good mark. He also judged how much creative input each photographer had used to make each image.

There were wildlife, nature, still life, landscape and portrait images, and some photographs of urban architecture. Doug commented on the overall sharpness and depth of field of each image, as well as its exposure and contrast. Some images could be improved by increasing the local contrast to cover a wider range of grey levels, as long as detail isn’t lost from the shadows or highlights. He also commented on the geometry and the textures each photographer had captured, or attempted to capture. For some of the urban shots he speculated whether a different viewpoint could have created a stronger image. Some macro shots needed a larger depth of field to capture more detail, and some shots had been over-sharpened. Doug also pointed out bright distractions which could be darkened, and suggested a vignette to pull attention away from the edge of the edge of a shot and back to a central subject. But Doug was impressed by the overall quality of the entries and awarded a lot of high marks.

The top scorers were (in reverse order):

  • 5th place (49 points)
    • Steven Beard
    • John West
  • 4th place (50 points)
    • Sean Conner
    • Gordon Davidson
  • 3rd place (52 points)
    • Jennifer Davidson
  • 2nd place (53 points)
    • Mike Clark
    • Steve Williams
    • Elaine Gilroy
    • Carol Edmund
  • 1st place (55 points)
    • Joe Fowler
    • George Todd
    • Anne Yeomans

The top images were:

  • Withered Rose (Elaine Gilroy) – 20 points (and Doug’s best image of the night)
  • Eyes Front (George Todd) – 20 points
  • Hurricane (Mike Clark) – 20 points
  • Reflections (Carol Edmund) – 20 points
  • Otter with Dogfish (Anne Yeomans) – 20 points
  • The Farrier (Joe Fowler) – 19 points
  • The Forge (Joe Fowler) – 19 points
  • Storm over Lisbon (Steve Williams) – 19 points
  • Hands (John West) – 19 points

Well done to Joe, George and Anne for their joint win, and well done to Mike, Steve, Elaine, Carol and Jennifer, who all win medals. It looks like the club will have to increase its medal budget!

Human Portrait Competition – Change of Date

I have been informed that we had the wrong date for the Human Portrait competition on the syllabus. Simon Wooton could not make the original date of 28th January 2021. The competition was moved to 14th January 2021 but the syllabus on the web site was not updated. George informs me that the closing date was this Thursday, 10th December, but as this is too short notice for everyone Simon has agreed to receive our images next week instead.

So please start preparing your human portrait images and submit them to George by 17th December 2020.

Apologies for the mistake on the syllabus. It has been corrected.

 

03 December 2020 (International Dutch Members Evening)

This week we were joined by my good friends Hans van der Boom and Denise Gielen from the Netherlands. Denise began the evening by showing us some of her macro, wildlife and drone photography, including some stunningly beautiful kingfisher images and cleverly framed drone shots of colourful tulip fields.  Some of Denise’s wildlife shots were taken in Oostvaardersplassen, a park in Flevoland made from reclaimed land, and Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen, a national park and nature reserve on the west coast. Hans enjoys travel photography and showed us a selection of photographs he had taken on travels throughout the world.  Hans finished his introduction with some cleverly-constructed indoor studio shots.

The Hans and Denise took us on a photographic tour of the Netherlands, showing us less visited places where we can experience Dutch scenery without being swamped by tourists.  Amsterdam is crowded with visitors each year, but Hans showed us the following less crowded towns which are similar to Amsterdam.  Click the links for more information:

When tourists visit the Netherlands they also want to see windmills, and Hans and Denise showed us some of the more photogenic windmill sites. For example:

But the Netherlands has more impressive structures than just windmills. Hans showed us the impressive architecture within the city of Rotterdam, and Denise showed us beautiful long exposure shots of the Ketelbrug in Flevoland and Hans his dramatic image of the Zeeland Bridge, the longest bridge in the Netherlands. You can also see some of the most iconic structures in the world in miniature in the Madurodam model village.

Of course, a visit to the Netherlands would not be complete without a visit to the impressively colourful tulip fields. The most famous of the tulip displays can be seen between March and May every year at the Keukenhof Gardens near Lisse.  An even bigger and rarer event is the Floriade exhibition, which is coming to Amsterdam in 2022.

After Hans and Denise had finished, Mike Clark showed them some of his impressive underwater shots. Denise’s husband Niels photographs farming machinery for Agrifoto, an agricultural photography site, so Steven Beard finished with a selection of photographs from the Royal Highland Show.

Thank you very much to Hans and Denise for entertaining us, showing that with Zoom we can reach out to other clubs and photographers around the world.