Monday, 18 February 2013

Tall Masts at Hermitage Moorings

I'd seen these beautiful boats from the opposite shore and had even tried to get a photograph with a zoom lens on my DSLR, but the results were never satisfactory. The day I went on a slow photowalk along the Thames Path riverside walk through Wapping in London, I'd forgotten all about them. So as I left St Katharine Docks and came around the corner to where I could see Hermitage Moorings, I was pleased that I had decided on this route, even if the only camera I had on me was my Canon SX220 HS compact and not my DSLR.

The SX220 is a competent-enough camera for a superzoom compact, the 'super' in this case being a 14x magnification going onto a 12MP sensor. But for this photo, I didn't need to zoom, or not very much, and 12MP is only a little smaller than my Nikon D5100's 14MP. When fully zoomed in Aperture priority mode, this compact camera can show characteristic over-sharpening noise, but in Program mode shooting wide, there's hardly any noise worth mentioning.

Thames sailing barges were used to carry cargo such as bricks, hay and grain along the river. Being flat-bottomed and with a draft of only 3 feet, they were as well suited to shallow waters as to the deeper estuary. They plied the waters, usually with a two-man crew, throughout the 19th century. Today they're more likely to be used for pleasure cruises, parties, business meetings, or as restaurants. Sitting at Hermitage Moorings, they look beautiful enough. When fully rigged, they're stunning, as the photo on Wikipedia shows.

Processing my photo in Lightroom 4.3 and Perfect Effects 4 resulted in a photo that I would be happy to call 'fine art'. And it has me hungry to create more.

Change of Licence


Today, Monday 18th of February 2013, I've started a new set on Flickr titled Fine Art. All photos currently in this set, and all photos placed in that set in the future, are ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. All of my photos prior to today have been published under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike licence and the vast majority of them remain under that licence. Most of the photos I publish in future will also be subject to the same Creative Commons licence.

Some of the photos in the Fine Arts set have previously been published under the CC Attribution Share-Alike licence and have changed from today to ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. If you wish to use, or continue to use, any of those photos, please contact me. Other photos previously published under the CC licence will also change as I move them into the Fine Arts set so please contact me if you want to use or continue to use them.

If you're thinking of using any of my photos, please check the licence carefully before doing so. And if you want to use a photo that has been published ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, feel free to email me.

The set can be viewed here.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Can you do serious photo processing on a tablet?

Moored Thames Sailing Barges

Someone on a photography forum asked if it was possible to do photo processing on an iPad. I don't know what software is available for the iPad other than Snapseed but Android has PixlrExpress, Photoshop Touch, AfterFocus, Touch Retouch, and a lot more good photo software, including Snapseed. I was sitting in a WiFi-enabled cafe browsing photography forums at the time so I thought I'd see for myself what is possible.
As well as doing serious photography with my phone I also upload 7 or 8 photos a week to Instagram, Streamzoo, and EyeEm. Since I do this for fun I'm not too fussed about whether the results are good, especially in terms of the technical image quality of the photos. So I thought it was an interesting and useful exercise to see what kind of quality I'd get attempting to edit a 'serious' photo. A great many photo editing apps on Android only save the output image at 800 pixels wide (or less) and don't let you specify the resolution or JPEG compression quality. I've done my research over the last couple of years and I now only use apps that let me save at a resolution that is the same as or near to the phone's native quality of 8MP (3264 x 2448).

I'd taken this photo a month or so back with my Samsung Galaxy S2 smartphone so I copied it to my Nexus 7 tablet using a USB-OTG cable and the Nexus Media Importer app and ran it through Photoshop Touch to crop the original and to get rid of a piece of wall, a large piece of driftwood and a few other distractions. I then loaded it into Snapseed for tone and colour adjustments plus a small bit of sharpening, then into PixlrExpress to add a narrow border. The whole process took little more than 10 minutes. Uploading it to Flickr to link to from the forum took three attempts and about 20 minutes, mainly because of the poor WiFi connection.

The resulting photo is 2448 x 1836 pixels in size and 2,670,777 bytes (2.54MB) and the overall quality of the photo is, in my opinion, of printable quality.

So, can one do serious photo processing on an iPad? I still don't know but I do know you can do it on a 7" Android tablet. What do you think?

Saturday, 19 January 2013

A free all-in-one photo processing tool

Recently, OnOne Software released Perfect Effects 4 Free. It has all of the features of Perfect Effects 4 but with only 70 or so preset effects as opposed to over 400.

However, as all of the functionality of the original software is there, you don't actually need all 400+ effects as you can create your own. All you need is to know how, and you can find out at OnOne University.

Although PE4 is used mostly as a plugin to programs like Lightroom and Photoshop, it also ships as a standalone program, available when you install PE4. It can open raw files as well as JPEGs and PSDs, though with new raw file formats you might need to convert the file first. It saves the result out as a layered PSD (Photoshop) file, a TIFF, a JPEG, or a PNG.

With basic effects comprising Black and White, Blur, Borders, Color Enhancer, Duotone, Glow, Photo Filter, Sharpening, Texturizer, Tone Enhancer, and Vignette, all of which can be applied to stackable layers, creating your own presets is very easy.

Built into PE4 is Perfect Layers which gives you a layered environment like Photoshop that gives you cropping and transforming tools, a masking brush and their proprietary masking bug, as well as a retouch brush.
Oh, and did I say it's free? You can download it now here.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Why are my photos so washed-out?

A correspondent on Flickr asked me why her photos taken with her Canon SX220 compact are pale and washed-out compared to mine taken with the same camera. This subject comes up a lot so I thought I'd copy and paste my answer for those of you relatively new to photography. Here's what I wrote:

"The simple answer is that the washed-out photo is straight out of the camera, whereas mine has had some post-processing. Let me explain:

The sensor (the part that records the picture) in even a modern camera can't detect as big a range of light and colour as the human eye can. If you were to take a photo, print it out at home, then take it back to the same location and hold it up, you'll see that compared to reality the photo will lack contrast - it will look washed out and the colours won't be as saturated. So a good photographer will, after copying his photos to a hard disk and backing them up, open them in a photo editing program to adjust for this. This is known as post--processing.

The most popular editing software is Photoshop CS, and it's very expensive, but it allows you to do a lot. You can not only bring back the contrast and colour to your photos, you can also create composite photos, for example, putting your subject onto a new background. Photoshop has a great many other functions, many of which aren't needed by the photographer.

The second most popular software is Lightroom and this is a lot less expensive but doesn't do as much; it's great at managing your photos and adjusting contrast and colour, and allows you to go further; for example, you can use an Adjustment brush to alter small areas of your picture, making them lighter or darker, sharper or blurrier, warmer or cooler, and so on. And it has a spot-healing tool to get rid of small unwanted objects such as sensor spots - caused by dust on the camera's sensor, as well as other features useful for the photographer.

There's also a cut-down version of Photoshop called Elements which does almost everything the average photographer might need to do. This is even cheaper than Lightroom and includes a photo management suite as well as the editor.

A free alternative to Photoshop is Gimp, which does a lot more than Elements, but fewer people use it which might mean that it takes longer to get help if you have a problem with it.

There are many other photo editing and post-processing programs, far too many for me to list. But there is one that I recommend to beginners. It's called Snapseed and you can get it for Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Android phones and tablets. It doesn't cost very much compared to the others and can do most of what beginners to photography might want to do. It's very easy to use and there are step-by-step video tutorials on the Snapseed website.

I hope I've explained well enough what the problem is and some possible solutions."

I should add the usual disclaimer that I have nothing to do with Nik Software (who produce Snapseed) as a company other than being a user and a big fan of their software.

Monday, 12 November 2012

World Press Photo Exhibition 2012

Press photography must be an extremely hard job to do. Not necessarily in terms of the learning and technique involved - after all, the spray-and-pray paparazzo counts as a press photographer - but more in terms of the subjects involved: war, destructive storms, hardship and poverty to name a few. Every year this exhibition includes some photos that are difficult to look at for long, including the grief-stricken faces and the dead bodies, and this year is no exception.

So it's not suitable for young children, but everyone else who is interested in photography should see it, in my opinion, so that we not only learn more about the world but also so that we come to appreciate the job these people do in bringing us the news.

Next time you consider whether to pack your ND grad filters for that scenic landscape walkabout, or whether to pack a long lens for a bit of street action in the local market, consider also the guy lugging a lot of heavy kit about inside a lethal war zone.

World Press Photo Exhibition 2012
Until 27 November 2012 Free admission
Daily 10.00 - 23.00
Southbank Centre, Royal Festival Hall
Belvedere Road

Cartier-Bresson - A Question of Colour

Given that I'm someone who isn't fond of black and white photography, and who thinks that processing colour photos into black and white sucks the life out of most of them, why would I be reviewing an exhibition featuring the photos of one of the most well-known street photographers who shot almost exclusively in black and white?

The answer is in the nature of the exhibition. Henri Cartier-Bresson thought that black and white photography couldn't be bettered. The curator of the exhbition, William E. Ewing, sees the exhibition as a 'challenge and response' - the photos of the master showing the 'decisive moment' that he was so good at capturing, and some of the photographers that Mr Ewing considers as making 'great strides' towards achieving the same end using colour photography.

The exhibition includes a number of black and white prints of some of Cartier-Bresson's work, though not necessarily his best-known, interspersed with prints by other photographers from different eras, including the modern.

It seems to me that one of the best examples of Cartier-Bresson's 'decisive moment' is the photo of a man leaping over a puddle, titled _Derriere la Gare Saint-Lazare_ which can be seen here. Yet I don't recall seeing a print of this anywhere in the exhibition. In fact, this 'decisive moment' seems to be missing from some of the photos on display, both Cartier-Bresson's and those by other photographers.

No matter, this isn't the main point of the exhibition.

Since admission to the exhibition is free, it's well worth the journey to Somerset House to make your own mind up as to whether the curator has fulfilled his aim - for it is his and not the aim of the photographers featured in the exhibition.

People with mobility impairments should note that the exhibition is at the south side of Somerset House, across a lot of very bumpy tiles from the main entrance. There is a lift that goes from the Embankment straight up to the exhibition.

Cartier-Bresson - A Question of Colour
Runs to 27 January 2013
Free admission
Somerset House
South Building  Strand, London WC2R 1LA

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