Audio Visual Evening will be in G6

This Thursday our audio visual evening with Beeslack Penicuik Camera Club will be in room G6 at Fisherrow, the large room at the end of the corridor on the left, rather than our usual room.

This Thursday is also the closing date for the “Abstract” set subject competition. Please send your 3 JPEG images, scaled to 1600×1200, to George Todd at georgetodd1957@me.com.

 

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.

 

24 January 2019 (Swedish Interclub)

This week club members had a chance to be judges themselves. We discussed 36 images sent to us by Mölnlycke Fotoklubb in Sweden. There were an impressive collection of images covering a wide range of subjects: portraits, street photography, woodland scenes, misty winter landscapes, some interesting night shots and some creative abstract shots. We were especially interested in the images this year, because some of our members are planning to visit Mölnlycke Fotoklubb and may be able to visit some of the places where those images were taken. The images generated a lot of discussion, with members commenting on each image while scribes write down the comments. At the end of the evening we selected the images we liked and then ordered them by popular voting.

The winning image was a stunning night shot taken at a water hole in a Kenyan wildlife reserve. It was a superb composition with a tree acting as a focal point and the waterside leading your eye to the animals in front of a starry background. The image was very dark on our projector but we still liked it a lot. For second place, members chose a portrait of a lovely group of ponies in Rörö wildlife park. Third place went to a long exposure night shot of a ride in an amusement park entitled “loop”, fourth place to a peaceful shot of a lakeside with an archway of trees and fifth place to a portrait of a potter holding his pipe.

Thank you Mölnlycke Fotoklubb for sending us the images. Congratulations to the winner, and some of us look forward to seeing you in a few months’ time.

 

Human Portrait Print Submission

I forgot to mention at the Swedish inter-club meeting, that this Thursday, 31st January is the submission date for the Human Portrait print competition. Please bring along up to 3 mounted prints (colour or black and white). If you haven’t entered this competition before, it is open to any print where the main subject is a person or group of people.

This Thursday, George will also be accepting entries for the 2019 SPF print championship. Since we are missing the 26 January drop-off deadline, George has offered to hand them in personally to the competition organisers (before the later 7th February deadline). Members can enter up to 6 mounted prints each: 3 monochrome and 3 colour at a cost of 70p per print. Any print which hasn’t been entered into that competition before is valid, not just prints from this year. If you are bringing portrait prints to enter into the SPF competition, make sure they are added to the correct folder.

Click here to see a PDF describing the competition.

 

Possible club trip to Harris & Lewis around October 2019

Here is the information from Jim Tod about the trip to the western isles he is suggesting for later this year and is happy to arrange on behalf of the club. If you are interested please email Jim at jim@todfamily.me.uk so he can keep you informed. Jim would like to meet with those interested early in February to talk about the arrangements and see if the trip would be feasible.


Club Visit to Lewis & Harris in Autumn 2019 – Jim Tod

The time-frame would be late October to early November 2019, but preferably late  October just before the clocks change: sunrise 8am, sunset 6pm-ish, dipping back to 7.30am to 5pm-ish when the clocks change.

For me it’s mainly a landscape trip but I’m not averse to a bit of wildlife photography. If there are clear skies (and perhaps aurora) then I’d be aiming for a bit of astrophotography also: dark skies galore if the weather’s good. There are lots of classic places: Luskentyre, Seilbost, Scarista, Hushinish, Northton salt marshes, Rodel Church, Gold Road, Mangersta, Callanish and anywhere else that works for us. There would be an opportunity to head over for a bit to North Uist.

I’d be planning to travel on the ferry from Uig in north Skye, not far from Quirang, Fairy Glen and Old Man of Storr. There would be an option for people to add some  time on Skye if they wished, as the journey is a good 5-6 hours’ drive and 2 hr ferry, and the hotel in Uig is a minute from the terminal. Another option would be to travel via the Ullapool to Stornoway ferry. Ullapool is a quicker drive by about 1-1.5 hours but the ferry trip is longer at 3.5 hours and there’s another hour’s drive from Stornoway to Tarbert.

For the accommodation plan I would aim for a B&B in Harris, or a hotel subject to availability. For meals, maybe packed lunches from the hotel and then it depends where we are at night for either dinner in the hotel or somewhere else. The planned duration would be 5 to 6 days. The duration really depends on ferry times which change on different days of the week.

Depending on numbers I’d be suggesting no more than 2 or 3 people in a car which is more about getting all the kit there (camera kit, wellies, wet weather gear) and allowing flexibility on the island for those who wish to do different things at different times.

Budget-wise I think £450-600 would be the order for a B&B for 5 to 6 nights plus a share of the ferry trip. Shared fuel, lunch, dinner and drinks would be on top of that.

Please email me at jim@todfamily.me.uk  if you are interested, and speak to me at a club meeting, and we can discuss the options in early February,

Jim Tod

17 January 2019 (Quiz Evening)

This week club members divided themselves into 4 teams and spent an enjoyable evening answering some fiendishly tricky questions posed by Ken Sharp. We started the evening identifying various statues located in the Edinburgh New Town. (Ken explained the history of the statues when he revealed the answers.) We then we moved on to identifying the settings used to take a collection of images of the same scene. The second half of the quiz involved questions on the history of photography and matching images to the famous photographers who took them. Finally, Ken had a reply to the “Which manufacturer makes the best camera?” question posed last year by Jim Tod. Ken’s question was “What is the best camera?” to which the answer is, “Whatever camera you have with you”. Ken explained that being ready to capture an image is the important thing, so having any camera is better than no camera at all.

The competition was won by the “Right back 4” team, with Liz Sowler, Malcolm and Lorraine Roberts and me. Thank you very much to Ken for entertaining us.

10 January 2019 (The Camera Never Lies)

Our club meetings resumed after the Christmas break with a talk by Edinburgh photographer Neil Scott FRPS (who had given us an entertaining talk, “Keep It Simple Stupid” in 2017). We were one of the first camera clubs to hear a brand new talk from Neil:  “The Camera Never Lies”.

Neil explained that he likes to specialise in 3 kinds of photography: Still Life, Street Photography and Surreal or Abstract photography. He showed us in each of those categories how the photographs can lie about a subject. A common technique is translocation, where a subject is extracted from one scene and added to another, unrelated background. Neil is particularly successful at doing this in his street photography, where a snatched shot of someone against a cluttered background becomes a studio-like shot of that same person against a fresh background. In one example, a shot of a gothic street performer in the Royal Mile looked much more dramatic against a graveyard. Neil has the knack of being able to crop right in on his subjects to cut out the clutter. Neil is also extremely imaginative: combining seemingly unconnected subjects together to make an impact. If you want your subject to look like they are in jail, place them against a crumbling wall and use a photograph of a grill pan in the foreground to make the bars!

Neil also showed us how he constructs his still life and abstract images. Some of them start as an idea seen in passing: a coffee mug placed oddly on a saucer or a picture hanging on a wall in the background. Neil will play with an image until it works; sometimes replacing all the original components on the way.

Neil finished his presentation by taking us through a history of fakery in photography, which has been happening long before Photoshop let you do it more easily. From the Cottingley Fairies to the less favoured compatriots of Lenin or Stalin being conveniently air-brushed out of their publicity photographs, the camera has had the ability to lie to us since the day it was invented.

 

Club Meetings Resume This Thursday

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a good Christmas break.

Our club meetings resume at 7:30pm this Thursday, 10th January in our usual room (G3) at Fisherrow. This Thursday we have a talk by photographer Neil Scott FRPS. Those of you who remember the “Keep It Simple Stupid” talk he gave us last year know we are in for a treat. Instead of the “A Silk Purse from a Sow’s Ear” talk listed in the syllabus, we are going to be one of the first clubs to hear a brand new talk from Neil:  “The Camera Never Lies”.

See you on Thursday.

 

Christmas Social Evening – Thursday 20th December

The club social evening takes place at the Ravelston House Hotel in Musselburgh. The hotel is on N. High Street, just up the road from the Fisherrow Centre, as shown below.

We will meet at the hotel bar from 7pm onwards, and the table is booked from 7:30pm.

A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all Musselburgh Camera Club members!🎄

 

Observing Comet 46P/Wirtanen

As I mentioned at yesterday’s club meeting, there is a comet moving across the sky this weekend. It is called “46P/Wirtanen” and is currently moving North through the constellation of Taurus, which is just to the right of the constellation of Orion. You should be able to see the comet by looking south around 10pm. The comet is supposed to be visible to the naked eye, but you need to look very carefully. It is larger than the size of the full Moon, and if you see it it will look like a faint, fuzzy blob. Any nearby street lights or thin cloud in the sky will spoil the view, so you will need to find somewhere dark. There are some dark spots along the coast at Longniddry Bents, or up Birsley Brae.

If it’s too faint for your eyes, a pair of binoculars will help (the larger the better). Better still, you could try photographing the comet! A long exposure on the digital camera will bring up more detail than you can see with your eyes. On a photograph you’ll notice the comet is green. There is a photograph of the comet displayed at http://www.spaceweather.com/, where they say:

This comet is an easy target for digital cameras with exposures as short as 10 to 30 seconds. Astrophotographer Juan Carlos Casado offers some advice to novices: “Use Raw file format, a fast lens (at least f/2.8) and ISO settings between 1600 and 3200. The exposure will depend on the focal length. I normally use the 500 rule–that is, exposure = 500 / focal length (mm). It also helps in areas with light pollution to use an antipollution filter. I am now using Optolong L-Pro clip filter which gives excellent color balance.

What the photographer doesn’t say is that you will need to set your camera to manual mode. Manually set the focus on infinity, mount the camera on a tripod, turn off vibration reduction (if your lens has it), set the camera to “M” mode and set the aperture and shutter speed manually. You can use a standard lens, rather than a telephoto, because the comet is quite large. Check out the Christmas tree photo at spaceweather.com.

You can find sky charts of the comet at http://www.cometwatch.co.uk/comet-46p-wirtanen/ and there is a live image of the sky showing where the comet is right now at https://theskylive.com/46p-tracker.

Best of luck!

Steven.