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.

Shots of the Pink Supermoon

Malcolm Roberts would like to draw members’ attention to this tweet showing a photograph of the recent “Pink Supermoon”. Malcolm asked how to create a “10 shot stack”. You can read a tutorial on the subject by clicking on the link below.

Astrophotography Tutorial: Image Stacking in Photoshop


Astrophotography: How do you find out what’s up there?

I was asked if there are resources that will tell you what is coming up in the sky, so you can make plans for astrophotography. The answer is sufficiently useful that I thought I would post it to everyone. I think the very best web site for planning astrophotography is this one:

https://www.heavens-above.com/

Click on the link and you have a large number of options. I have programmed the above link to select “Musselburgh” as the default location. Click on “location” in the top right corner to see what the sky is doing where you live. The site is used by amateur astronomers, satellite and space enthusiasts, but the pages I think would be most useful for astrophotography are:

  • Interactive Sky Chart: This tells you what the sky looks like on any date. The zenith (looking straight up) is in the middle of the graph and the horizon is around the edge. Change the date to see how the sky will change in the future. You can, for example, see where the Milky Way crosses the horizon on each date. You can follow the planets and see if there are dates when they clump together and make a show at sunset or sunrise.
  • The Moon: This page lets you follow what happens to the Moon on future dates. You can check its phase and check when it might pass close to a planet and make a good show. For example, dial up 28th January 2020 and press “update” and you’ll see the crescent Moon passes close to Venus. If the sky is clear this would  be a good time to photograph the Moon as it sets.

Another very useful site is this one:

https://www.timeanddate.com/

The first thing you’ll need to do is click the “set home location” link under “Set time” and set your home location to Edinburgh, Scotland (it doesn’t know about Musselburgh). This site doesn’t have as many features as heavens-above, but it is is best site for predicting eclipses. Click here to bring up the eclipse planning page. The site is not as good at remembering your location, so make sure you type “Edinburgh, Scotland” in the “Place or country” box to get the correct information. You’ll find the next eclipse visible from here is a rather boring penumbral lunar eclipse on 5th June 2020. Keep tracking forwards and you’ll see there is a good solar eclipse on 10th June 2021. Put that date in your diary.

Finally, another site I find useful is this one:

https://spaceweather.com/

The site is dedicated to monitoring solar activity, so it is a good place to get sunspot and aurora predictions. The site doesn’t plan ahead but tells you what’s in the sky right now. It’s a good place to see alerts about aurorae or unusual clouds that could make interesting landscape images. Best of luck!

I hope all this will be useful to some members.

 

31 January 2019 (How Did You Do That)

This week members shared their image processing hints and tips, revealed how to make some special effects or brought in questions to be answered. Here are some highlights from the discussion.

Removing unwanted objects.

Quiet often an image will lose marks because of a distraction in the background or a bright spot near the edge. The easiest way to remove the distractions is to crop the image, but what if you can’t? If cropping the image would remove something important, the other way to remove distractions is to used the “patch”, “clone stamp” and “healing brush” tools in Photoshop. The patch tool is great for removing distracting objects against a plain background (such as sky, grass or water). Look for the tool that looks like a sewn patch as shown here.

Make a selection around the object you want to remove, click in the middle and drag the patch somewhere else in the plain background. When you release the mouse the object will be removed. If your background has a pattern, such as waves or stripes, line up the pattern as best you can before releasing the mouse. Hint: You can remove a large or oddly-shaped area by patching it a bit at a time.

The clone stamp tool can be used for trickier patching jobs, like the image below. Select the tool looking like an ink stamp. Move the tool to an area you would like to copy and click while pressing the ALT key. Then move the tool to the place you would like to erase, line up the edges and start painting.

The “clone source” window (above) can help you to match the edges. If you are copying the top of the mountain but it is at the wrong angle, try changing the rotation. If you are cloning a background with a gradient, use the “Mirror horizontal” button to flip the gradient so your painted strokes don’t leave a sharp edge. Here are some more cloning hints:

  • After cloning, go over the same area with the healing brush to smooth over the edges and remove artefacts. Look for discontinuities and unnatural straight edges.
  • Try to clone from many different sources to avoid creating repeating patterns. When you have finished, look for duplicated objects and similar patterns and change the duplicates by passing the healing brush over them.

Local Tone Corrections

We have all been told to use the “brightness”, “levels” or “curves” tools in Photoshop to adjust the brightness and contrast, but what if your image only needs a partial correction? “camera raw” comes with a selection of very useful adjustment tools. The first is the “gradient tool”, shown below. First select the adjustment you would like to make (in this case a reduction in exposure and darkening the highlights) and then sweep with the mouse away from the part you would like adjusted (in this image from bottom to top). The adjustment darkens the foreground highlights.

The second is the “adjustment brush” shown below. This tool uses exactly the same sliders as the gradient tool, only this time you can paint the adjustment anywhere on the image. Ticking the “auto mask” box prevents the adjustment accidentally leaking across a sharp edge. Hovering the mouse over the point reveals which parts of the image have been painted over (as shown below in red).

This adjustment is particularly useful for brightening the faces in a portrait or for darkening bright distractions near the edge of an image. The secret is to make only small adjustments so your image still looks natural. You can change the adjustment at any time.

Content Aware Scale

The content aware scale is a little used Photoshop utility (which has been available since CS4)  but its results can be absolutely magic. It is ideal for compositions with several subjects spaced out against a plain background. If you would like to bring the subjects closer together, or to change the aspect ratio of the image without cropping it, a content aware scale may work for you. First select the part of the image you would like to scale with a rectangular box (or use “select all”). Then select “Edit/Content Aware Scale” as shown below.

Now move the edges of your image inwards and watch the magic happen. Look carefully and make sure non of the main subjects are compressed by the effect. The vacated parts will be filled with background colour, but you can remove them with a crop.

Correcting Horizontals and Verticals

One member asked how to correct an image where the main subject is tilted at a strange angle. There are alternative two ways of doing this. The first and simplest method is to rotate the image and crop it. This method is best used for an image, such as a seascape, where the horizon is tilted or an image, like the one below, where an object which should be vertical (the church tower) is leaning to one side.

The example shows the crop tool in “camera raw”. Right-click on the image and ensure that “Show overlay” is ticked. Move the mouse outside the crop area and drag the edges to rotate the crop until the overlaid lines match up with the horizontals and verticals in the image.

If your image is more complicated, such as an architectural shot, the second method is to use the lens correction filter, as shown below. The “camera raw” lens correction filter is easier to use. Click on the tool which looks like a lens schematic “()()”. The “rotate” slider rotates the image, just as before. Use this slider to line up the horizontals and verticals in the centre of the image. The “vertical” and “horizontal” sliders can be used to correct the horizontals and verticals at the edge of your image. (The “distortion” slider can be used to straighten lines if your shot is taken with a wide angle lens.)

The lens correction filter in Photoshop itself has the same controls, but the “rotate” control is very fiddly to use.

After using the lens correction filter you will need to crop the image. If the sloping edges mean you lose something important outside the crop, it is possible to crop slightly outside the boundary and use a “Content Aware Fill” (available from CS6 onwards) to fill the missing parts. You should treat this fill like a clone and repair any odd-looking artefacts with the healing brush.

Don’t Make The Mistake I Made

Here is an image showing a mistake I made when creating a black and white image. The black and white conversion tool in Photoshop can be used to convert a colour image to black and white. The tool lets you adjust the colour sliders, or apply one of a number of presets, until you get the effect you want. Sometimes you will find different conversions work better in different parts of the scene. In the image below I applied two different black and white conversions to the bottom and the top of the image.

The mistake I made? The opacities of the two conversion layers don’t add up to 100%! Right in the middle there is a patch which looks black and white but actually has a tiny hint of colour. The mistake is revealed by boosting the saturation. To ensure you never make this mistake, always add a black and white conversion or desaturation layer which acts on the whole image.

Solarization Effect

Finally, here is a special effect you can try on an image with boring highlights, such as a blank and uninteresting sky. Applying a curves adjustment in the shape of an upside down “U” will create a solarization effect in which the dark parts of the image are shown in positive and the lighter parts are shown in negative.

You can vary the effect by dragging the top of the curve left or right, and you can use a layer mask to confine the effect to just part of your image. For example, the mask in the above image prevents the effect changing the white parts of the stones.

I hope these hints and tips will help members to adjust their images or have some fun with the special effects.

 

SPF Ins & Club Outings

Following on from the AGM when a number of questions were raised with regard to Insurance coverage under  the SPF policy. The document below is from the SPF, as can be seen if you are intending on organising a group trip on behalf of the club outwith the club listings on the syllabus then either SPF General Secretary or the SPF Treasurer  should be emailed.

Initially it was proposed for the Club Secretary or Chairman to notify the SPF, however in light of the procedure now clarified I see no reason why the onus should not now rest with the members organising the trip/outing.

The SPF can be contacted as follows, which will open a message box:

SPF General Secretary:
http://www.scottish-photographic-federation.org/email/node/625/field_exec_email
SPF Treasurer:
http://www.scottish-photographic-federation.org/email/node/628/field_exec_email

Club Secretary

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