07 April 2022 (Doug Berndt: My photography journey, distinctions and some of my favourite images)

This week we were delighted to welcome Doug Berndt ARPS EFIAP to Musselburgh Camera Club. Doug is the “Immediate Past President” of Edinburgh Photographic Society. Doug is our last speaker of the season, and because of a technical issue, is also the first speaker to visit the club both in person and speak to us by Zoom within the same session. You can see more of Doug’s work on his web site:

https://edinburghdoug.com/

Doug spoke about his photography journey and explained how he achieved his ARPS with the Royal Photographic Society and his EFIAP with the International Federation of Photographic Art. Doug began by showing us the old film cameras he used when just getting into photography. He then showed is the 10 images he had used for his LRPS qualification. The aim for LRPS is to show a wide range of photographic techniques using 10 images combined into a panel. The RPS provide advice and feedback to help a photographer to put together a panel, and Doug explained how he was helped to decide which images to include. Doug then showed us the 15 images he had used for his ARPS panel. An ARPS panel needs to show a distinct body of work described by a 250 word statement of intent. Doug chose to describe a trip on the Waverley paddle steamer, and the sites visited on its journey along the Clyde. Doug finished his RPS journey by showing us his current FRPS panel, which is a work in progress at the moment.

We were also treated to a display of some of Doug’s outstanding photographs that were accepted for photographic salons, and those that won different medals and awards. This record of achievement lead to his EFIAP distinction. Doug finished the evening by showing us some of his favourite images; featuring scenes from the Edinburgh Festival, shots made on journeys through Kenya and India, and beautiful wildlife images. Doug’s experience revealed the fickle nature of photography: A highly praised photograph of a puffin that was included in an RSPB book became “just another puffin photo” a few months later; and a sharp, colourful rural scene with highland cows received a better mark when deliberately blurred and converted to black and white.

Thank you Doug for sharing your experience and providing advice about putting together panels of photographs. We are sorry the technical issue meant we couldn’t chat face to face over tea as originally intended. The club wishes you the best of luck with your FRPS assessment when it comes.

17 March 2022 (Charles Everitt: Water of Leith: Nature’s Course)

This week we were delighted to welcome Charles Everitt to the Fisherrow Centre to give us a face-to-face talk on one of his passions: exploring and photographing nature along the Water of Leith in Edinburgh. Charles is a retired police officer who has been a photographer for 30 years and now sits as a trustee on the Water of Leith Conservation Trust. The talk is based on Charles’ book “Water of Leith: Nature’s Course”, published in 2011. Charles was named Scottish Nature Photographer of the Year in 2020 and has contributed to the Wild Nature Diary & Calendar. You can find more of Charles’ work on his web site:

https://www.charleseveritt.com/

Charles began by introducing us to the Water of Leith, from its source in the Pentland Hills, through Colinton Dell, Longstone, Saughton Park, Murrayfield, Dean Village, Stockbridge, and finally Leith docks. He showed us images of the landmarks, wildlife and wildflowers he photographed along the way. Then he introduced us to some more abstract works: special effects created by the light reflected from the water, patterns created by frost and frozen leaves, jumbles of shapes created by the leaf litter. Street lighting, flowers or foliage reflected in the water can create some strong colours. Next he showed us tranquil photographs of the river, with the movement in the water emphasised by a long exposure. Charles finds a 1/8th second exposure shot is usually the best compromise, but he also uses 0.6s and 1.6s for a more blurry effect. He looks like places where the white water can form a line which helps create a lead-in for the viewer. A popular combination is “leaf, stone and water”, where a coloured leaf is placed on a stone in the middle of a stream of running water.

Charles explained how modern equipment has changed the nature of photography. In the past it took a lot of skill to capture a sharp and focussed image of, say, a bird in flight. But now a good camera will tend to do this for you, and everyone can take sharp photographs of birds in flight. To stand out, your photographs need to provide something extra. The emphasis is now on what the picture shows and what story it tells. When he is in a new situation, or is running out of ideas, Charles challenges himself to tell the story of his situation in 6 pictures. One example is “Winter’s Toll”, his series of 6 pictures showing dying vegetation. Another example is the 6 images he took while sheltering under the bridge at Murrayfield, showing the texture of the brickwork, the reflections in the water and the soot revealing evidence of a past railway.

Charles ended his presentation with his photographs of the Gormley statues. He showed how the statues could be made to look very different using different photographic techniques. Tranquil shots of the statues gazing up the water (with the background foliage cleverly blurred using a long exposure shot on a windy day). Close-up portraits of the statues. Night shots of the statues lit by a coloured torch. Finally, there were some low-key black and white photographs which looked like scenes from a horror or science fiction movie.

Thank you, Charles, for visiting and entertaining us with a fascinating talk.

03 March 2022 (David Clapp: Landscape and Travel Photography)

On 3rd March 2022 we joined Beeslack Penicuik Camera Club for a joint session by Zoom, which once again let us to connect with a photographer from further afield. This time we were joined by David Clapp, a successful travel and landscape photographer from Newton Abbot, England. David said he started photography in 2002/2003, at first capturing images on film before moving on to digital photography. He started as a guitar teacher but his interest in photography lead to a career as a full-time professional in 2009. He has contributed travel photographs to guide books and stock photos to Getty Images. David explained that he doesn’t like the “instant gratification” aspect of social media. He prefers people to take more time and enjoy photography as an artform. You can see and enjoy David’s images one his website or his teaching page:

/https://www.davidclapp.co.uk/

https://www.westdean.org.uk/study/tutors/david-clapp

David began by showing us a trick he uses to select the best compositions from a vista. If he finds himself looking at a panoramic landscape he takes a series of, say 7, overlapping shots in portrait mode and then blends them into a large panorama. He can then crop out smaller compositions from this large image. Shooting in portrait mode means you don’t lose resolution when extracting portrait-format subsets. David suggested that the best way to progress in photography is to take risks. Take photographs that mean something to you, rather than photographs designed to please your peers. David took a risk when he converted one of his cameras to infrared photography, but it paid off. He showed us some stunning images of gnarled trees photographed around Dartmoor. The shots looked like snow scenes, but were in fact taken on a misty summer day with the infrared-converted camera.

David explained the composition of his landscape images and illustrated each composition by drawing “force lines” which represented the leading lines which your eye tends to follow. The strongest compositions have “force lines” which come in from a corner and lead you to a focal point. He tries to place focal points either on a 1/3rd or in the middle. Lines which criss-cross the image give it more complexity. David also showed how a balanced image would look more pleasing to the eye. He arranges to have the same-sized gap on the left and right sides and at the top and bottom of each image. He finds the most pleasing compositions are made at moderate focal lengths, and finds a 35-70mm lens ideal for landscape photography. A few years ago everyone tried to capture the “rock in the foreground” shot, where a wide angle lens captures a huge vista stretching from a rock in the foreground, to some trees in the middle ground and then mountains in the distance. Such a shot can capture the attention at first, but your brain tends to lose interest because too much is included and the foreground objects dominate the shot. David prefers to take landscape shots of specific objects within their surroundings, such as the trees in Dartmoor, rock formations on the top of a hill, or farm buildings within a farm. He recommends avoiding focal lengths wider than 35mm.

David described the method he uses to capture the best landscape shots. He avoids using a tripod (unless deliberately making long exposures at night) and instead takes hand-held shots at a high ISO setting. A tripod tends to anchor you to one spot, and David likes to look through the viewfinder, identify the key components in a scene, then move the camera until he finds a spot where the key components are spaced in a pleasing way. Try to have evenly-spaced objects in the scene and try not to have overlaps between objects. Zoom in and out and rotate the camera to find a shot where lines are anchored at the corners. If there is a building in the scene, try to include the door, and don’t turn take the shot more than 45 degrees away from that door.

David warns of falling into the trap of using excessive processing in Photoshop. Adding a colour or contrast boost to your images might make them look punchier, but it can also make them look unnatural. This is another example of spoiling images to make them attention-grabbing. David showed us the histograms of some of his images. They rarely contain completely white or completely black areas because most natural scenes don’t look completely black or completely white to your eye. This gives the images a more pleasing, natural and artistic look. Revisiting the same scenes many times in different lighting conditions will help you capture the best images.

In the second half of his talk, David gave an introduction to architectural photography, using images of the high rise buildings in Bishops Gate in London as an example. He explained how he applies the same techniques for these images. Shots of small groups of buildings work better than large cityscapes. You can even capture abstract images by focusing on just one part of a building. Upward-facing shots can be used to capture a strong perspective, with the vanishing point placed on a 1/3rd or in the middle. Try to rotate the shot so the edges of the buildings pass through the corners. Photographs of window reflections work better when there are no clouds in the sky.

Unfortunately, Musselburgh members at the Fisherrow Centre missed the end of David’s talk because of the early closing time 😦 but I understand he went on to show more abstract images captured in London and show more infrared shots.

Thank you very much Beeslack for hosting this extremely fascinating and captivating talk, and thank you David for taking the time to engage with us.

In case you missed it

If you were not at Musselburgh Camera Club last Thursday, Andrew Lanxon Hoyle has now added a recording of his talk on “Expanding Your Mental Kitbag” to his YouTube channel:

We get a plug at the beginning. The recording shows everything except the extensive question and answer session we had at the end.

See you this Thursday for the 2-way competition.

Cheers,
Steven

Photo Advice Night This Evening

Tonight is photo advice night. Please bring along some images for which you would like advice or feedback. This is a good night for anyone to bring their images for advice on how to improve them. It is also a good evening to share hints and tips.

If you are connecting by Zoom, please save your images to a folder so you can share your screen and show them. The Zoom information is exactly the same as for last week’s meeting.

If you are coming along to the Fisherrow Centre, please bring your images on a data stick so we can load them onto the club laptop at the beginning of the night. If you would like advice on a mounted or unmounted print please bring it to Fisherrow.

I look forward to seeing you at 7:30 this evening.

16 September 2021 (Introduction to Photography)

This week I gave my introduction to photography presentation for beginners, this time as a combined face to face and Zoom presentation. This was the first use of the club’s new wireless microphone, which we found was good for picking up the speaker but not so good for picking up the chat from within the room. Next time we will switch to a different microphone for the questions and chat.

Here is a collection of downloadable notes, if anyone would like more details.

The following downloadable notes and give more information on club competitions.

After the presentation there was a technical hitch, where the club laptop struggled to manage a Zoom meeting and play a Dingwall DVD at the same time. After a few minutes delay we eventually showed some inspirational images from the Dingwall Camera Club National Projected Image Exhibition.

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.

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.

 

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.

 

 

BBC News “In Pictures”

Congratulations to John West, whose photograph of Edinburgh at night was featured at the top of the BBC News “In Pictures” page a few days ago.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-54188930.

John says anyone can send their pictures to the BBC. The rules for entering are on their web page at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-10768282. The current theme is “open road”, which closes in 3 days. You can also see the archive of photos from previous themes back to January 2017. Photos for the latest theme appear at the bottom of the BBC News main page for a few days and later move to the archive on the “Your Pictures” themes page.