18 February 2021 (Astrophotography & Action Photography)

This week the club had a virtual visit from Andy Bennetts of Haddington Camera Club, who gave us two talks on very different photographic subjects: “Astrophotography” and “Action Photography“. 

Astrophotography

Andy showed us examples of different kinds of astrophotography. The easiest subject to photograph is the Moon, which is best photographed on a clear night with your longest possible telephoto lens. Andy’s examples were photographed with his 400mm lens, with a 2x converter, at ISO 3200, 1/2000sec at f5.6. The tripod and fast shutter speed help remove camera shake at this extreme magnification. You can use the web site https://www.timeanddate.com/ to predict the phases of the Moon and look up the times of moonrise and moonset.  Andy also likes to photograph the Sun at sunrise or sunset. You need to be careful not to look at the Sun through the telephoto lens and use a narrow aperture to protect your camera. The Sun will appear as a featureless disk unless you use a dark solar filter (see https://www.baader-planetarium.com/en/solar-observation.html), so it is best photographed next to a landmark. The web site https://photoephemeris.com/ can be used to predict when and where to photograph the Sun and Moon against local landmarks. There are also smartphone apps called TPE and Sun Surveyor which give you the same information.

Andy then showed us how to photograph more difficult subjects, such as the stars and Milky Way. These are best photographed from a dark site well away from light pollution. The most convenient dark site near East Lothian is the B6355 from Gifford to Duns. The camera should be set to manual focus and manual exposure for best results.  A red headlight is useful for setting up your camera in the dark.  Andy recommends focussing by looking at a magnified “live view” on the back of the camera, rather than just setting your lens to infinity. Photographs to emphasise star trails are best made with a wide angle lens, with the camera on a tripod. Exposure times of up to an hour can be achieved by setting the shutter speed to “bulb” and using a remote shutter release. Images containing some foreground detail, such as trees, lakes and mountains, will have the most impact. Use a wide aperture and an ISO setting below 400 to reduce noise. On the other hand, photographs to emphasise the Milky Way need an exposure time of 20-30 seconds to prevent star trails. These shots require an ISO setting greater than 1600. Andy recommends taking 5 or more shots of the same scene and stacking them in Photoshop to reduce the noise. Layers can be matched together manually using the “difference” blending mode. The Milky Way shows up better on a dark, clear night without the Moon.  Andy showed us some beautiful images he had taken by the Whitadder reservoir.  Finally, Andy showed us some post-processing tips for astrophotography:

  • Darken the shadows to emphasise the blackness of the night sky
  • Increase the contrast to brighten the stars.
  • Increase clarify, vibrance and saturation to emphasis the faint detail and colour.

Action Photography

Andy then showed us the techniques he uses to capture action shots, using different kinds of sporting events as examples. The photographer has control of the aperture, shutter speed, focal length and camera movement.  A wide aperture (such as f2.8) is useful for reducing the depth of field to emphasise the action while blurring the background.  A fast shutter speed (such as 1/500s) will help to freeze the action, while a slower shutter speed (such as 1/50s) can help to emphasise movement. Panning the camera helps to emphasise the movement of fast-moving subjects such as motorbikes, cars and cyclists.  A long focal length lens allows you to zoom in on the action from a distance. You can also eliminate a distracting background (such as ugly buildings behind a sports stadium) by cropping closely on the action, such as a rugby scrum. You can hand-hold a lens up to 200mm, but for longer focal lengths Andy recommends a tripod or monopod. A monopod gives you the best compromise between steadiness and flexibility. If you don’t have a long lens there are also opportunities for capturing action from a closer viewpoint, such as at the Edinburgh Marathon or at road cycling events.

Getting the focus right is one of the most difficult aspects of action photography. Autofocus works better when your subjects are well separated from the background, but even then most of the shots will not be focussed properly. Andy takes lots of shots and selects the ones with the best focus. Some sporting events, such as horse racing, are difficult to get right with autofocus. For those events, Andy recommends manually focussing on a stationary object, such as a fence, and waiting for the riders to jump or pass that fence.

Andy gave us some hints on where to find subjects for action photography. There are usually (when not in lockdown) regular football, rugby and cricket events in Haddington. Horse racing can be photographed at Musselburgh, action water events often take place at Fox Lake Adventures, near Dunbar, golf at Gullane, Canoeing at Grand Tully, wind surfing at Longniddry and Gullane beach (best viewed at high tide) and Motor Cycling at East Fortune.

Thank you to Andy for a very enjoyable and informative double evening.

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.

 

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!

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.

 

26 November 2020 (Model Photography)

On 26th November 2020 we had our first virtual speaker of the year. Les Duff from Midlothian Camera Club joined our Zoom meeting to talk about his model photography. Les has had 40 years of experience in photography. He explained how he had got started in model photography, helping out a family member with a photoshoot and giving out business cards. Les now finds work with the aid of the following modelling and portfolio sites:

You can join these sites as a photographer or a model and describe the kind of work you are looking for. The site then shows you models or photographers who fit the criteria you are looking for. To join a site you need to submit a portfolio of images which meet the site’s standards. Les also showed us his own personal web sites:

Les likes landscape photography and prefers to take his shots outdoors. He showed us a variety of different shots taken in scenic locations such as Longniddry Bents, Hailes Castle and Colinton Dell. Les’ shots varied from fashion photography to nude, with nude being the most difficult to get right. Les prefers to do only minimal processing on each shot, preferring to get each shot right in camera. He will correct the white balance and levels but prefers not to apply a skin softening filter unless specifically requested. Most of Les’ outdoor shots are lit naturally, but he will use a reflector or fill-in flash to lighten shadows. Les uses prime lenses for the best quality (85mm for portraits and 45mm for whole body shots) and carries two camera bodies so he doesn’t waste time changing lenses. The best shots are usually taken looking horizontally at the model (Les often goes down on one knee to get the best angle). Shots looking up or down tend to be less flattering.

Les also showed us some of his indoor studio work. These have an entirely different feel from the outdoor shots: plain backgrounds and softer lighting. Les normally uses two softbox lights either side of the model to produce the soft lighting, but he also uses vertical strip lights to cast shadows and emphasise body contours. Occasionally he will recreate outdoor conditions indoors by (for example) using a single spotlight to simulate the beam cast by a street light.

Thank you to Les for visiting us, showing us your work and answering our questions.