Digital Cameras

Digital cameras, don’t you just love them, I was a sceptic at first where the best image was 6mp and couldn’t stand against 35mm when printed above 6 x 4 (that’s 150mm x 100 mm for the metric fraternity). I was still old school, 35mm colour and black and white negatives plus 35mm slide film, a fairly expensive hobby where you couldn’t see your results until you spent time in the darkroom. Being expensive and limited (max 36 shots to a roll) also meant that you thought a lot more about the shot before you took it, there wasn’t a wide margin for error.

My first digital camera was a 3mp compact (a Ricoh Caplio G4 wide) and at the time considered a toy against my 35mm Olympus SLRs but the advantage it did have straight away was the ability to view the image and if necessary take it again. Image quantity was limited to the space on the SD card and given the choice then of taking hundreds of low quality images or a few high quality images the choice was clear, high quality every time, if I took a shot then I wanted the best I could get, there wouldn’t necessarily be the opportunity to take it again, after all I could always get another memory card or just dump it to a computer file. It became a great little camera to carry around in the car and given it was early days still for digitals it did produce some really nice images at 2048 x 1536 pixels.

Cable Car in the Blue Mountains

Cable Car in the Blue Mountains

That digital camera was only the first of many (attached is an image taken on it in the Blue Mountains New South Wales) and I still have it to remind me. Currently I have a Canon 550D digital SLR and wouldn’t trade back to the roll film version for anything, these modern cameras are serious tools. This one is 18 mp giving 5184 x 3456 pixels and I’ll probably upgrade again one day but we all have to work within our abilities and for the moment this works really well for me.

More images can be found in this sites galleries as well as high definition versions available through my online shop.

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The Right Light

There’s a lot to be said for choosing the right time of day to take your photos, your decision determines the mood of the final image. Previously I mentioned taking photographs on a bright sunny day, everyone’s favourite time, how often have you looked at your final result and thought that the images were flat, or in high contrast (very dark areas and very bright ones), how often have you looked at the result and thought that it looked ‘washed out’?  This is because what your eye sees is not what your camera sees, the eye will compensate rapidly for changes in lighting levels as you look around, the camera of course tries to record what it monitors in that fraction of a second the image is taken and is often fooled by the sky or the sun or reflective surfaces, even those with multiple sensors embedded.

Of course we don’t always have a choice when the shot can be taken, it greatly depends on where we are at the time but when you do have a choice you can of course help by choosing not to take in the middle of the day. At this time the sun is directly overhead so there are few shadows and therefore little sculpturing to give depth and shape to objects, trees or hills and images become flat as objects blend into each other and colours fade. You will have noticed how in late afternoon when the sun is across the subject that the shadows give objects that depth and shape and also observed that the colour of the light changes from being bright and harsh in the middle of the day to becoming warmer and softer as the day progresses.

Midday landscape example

Midday landscape example

Given a choice I’d choose mid to late afternoon every time for that warm effect and about an hour before sunset when I really want to add some soft enhanced colour into a landscape shot. The first image was taken at midday, the sun is high, shadows short and the scene is flat.

Late sunshine in the Barossa

Late sunshine in the Barossa

The second shows a mid afternoon image and already sculpturing is taking effect in the tree trunk.

The third image gives an idea of how the colour changes as the day progresses towards evening with the colour of the vines changing from light brown to a warm golden brown.

More Landscape images can be found in this sites gallery ‘Australia in View’ as well as available through my online shop.

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Australian Winter

Winter, even here in Australia just the thought of the word conjures up cold wet days, dull gloomy outlooks and evenings where we all prefer to rug up. There is another side of course, there are days where the air is so bright and clear that the colours jump out at you, where clouds in the sky add texture to what is normally a wide blue empty space all summer and where your mind screams at you to get out there and enjoy it.

Snow on the mountainside in Victoria

Snow on the mountainside in Victoria

Recently I had the advantage of being on a mountain during the winter with days of bright sunshine, clear blue skies and deep snow, ideal conditions to get away from the crowds and take those shots that you wouldn’t normally find. Just remember when photographing on snow that the light hits the snow and is reflected back, this will fool your camera into thinking that the image is brighter than it actually is and the result will be a dull grey picture. You can compensate for this by adjusting your camera compensation by a stop or two but this will vary by the day so bracket your shots, at least with digital cameras you can see what you have achieved and adjust to suit.

2012-(059)

The weather closes in

The beautiful days on arrival couldn’t last of course with a snowstorm arriving a few days later but not to worry, just more opportunities right…………..

More images of the Australian Winter can be found in this sites gallery Australia in View’ as well as available through my online shop.

There’s always time to take it

Evening rainstorm

Evening rainstorm

I’ve been asked when is the best time to take photographs, humorously the best answer is when you have a camera in your hand, mine is never too far away, my DSLR goes with me when I go out at weekends and a compact is permanently in the car, you never know when you will see something interesting, how often have you said “I wish I’d had my camera with me” when the unexpected image appears. The question of course really related to the weather and whilst the above is true enough most people associate good photographs with bright sunny days, blue skies and wisps of cloud in the sky. Generally this is fine after all who doesn’t like a sunny day however look at images that move you, when were they taken, often as not you would say sunrise or sunset or storm clouds moving over hills with the sun peering through.

Stormy Rural Landscape

Stormy Rural Landscape

Snowstorm

Snowstorm

Misty morning in England
Misty morning in England

As you have already guessed photographs need mood and therefore depend upon lighting available at the time to be really effective. I’ve taken photographs as a thunderstorm approaches, on a gloomy fog filled day, at night in the rain and even in a snowstorm on a mountainside; don’t be put off looking for a good image just because the weather isn’t kind to you. I’ve attached examples of each of these types.

High resolution versions of my photographs are available through my online shop, please enjoy.

Digital Abstracts

Who doesn’t like abstracts?, I expect that there’s a few but for the rest of us those crazy patterns manipulate the eyes and the brain and yes they can make great posters. Take this abstract ‘Vortex’, well to create it I needed something that contained a lot of bright colours so I chose this shot of coloured balls as a starting point.

Vortex

Vortex

Coloured-Balls

Coloured Balls

Sunrise

Sunrise

Photo editing tools contain lots of built in filters that can be used to manipulate the image, they can twist and pull colour in all directions, slice it bend it, blur it, the list is endless. With so many variables inside each filter its virtually impossible to re-create the image again so as you play with filter after filter save a copy of what you like before you experiment further.

The balls also formed the basis for ‘Sunrise’, a totally different style of abstract. Digitally manipulating images to abstracts does have an advantage over traditional art in that the manipulation goes down to pixel level, zoom into a high resolution image and you will see patterns inside patterns.

High-Res-ZoomTo demonstrate, on view is a zoom into the high resolution version of ‘Sunrise’ as it looks at 100%, there’s detail inside detail.

With abstracts it’s like throwing paint onto a canvas, just manipulate the outcome until you like what you see.

Further digitally manipulated images can be found in this sites gallery ‘Digital Enhancement’, as well as high resolution versions available through my online shop, please enjoy.

Getting Closer

There’s nothing quite like getting in close and personal, getting in close to subjects often improves the image, a lecturer once told our camera club that if you wanted the subject to fill the frame then don’t use a longer lens just step closer, useful advice when on most occasions you just happen to have the one lens with you, though maybe not so practical when there are obstacles in front.

I have a Canon EOS 550D and often used the 18-55 IS lens and changed to the EFS 55-250 IS when the subject was just out of reach, often though that meant carrying around the zoom just in case I needed it, more unnecessary weight unless I’m heading somewhere specific and I know that I’m going to make use of it. Most days though the camera is just with me in a shoulder bag with the one lens, an EFS 18-135 IS which makes it lighter and more convenient for general use, especially when I’m climbing up hillsides on these hot days. This is Ok considering that I mostly take landscapes and use the 18mm end of the lens but every so often I find subjects where climbing closer would definitely help.

50mm-Image

50mm-Image

135mm-Image

135mm-Image

I’ve attached two images both of the same subject, a humorous haystack found in South Australia. As can be seen taking one shot at 50mm and the other at 135mm creates two very different images (in this case I couldn’t have walked closer as the farmer had built a barbed wire fence across my path).

The original concept though of getting closer still holds true, when you can do. I’m open to comment.

High resolution versions of my photographs are available through my online shop, please enjoy.

Ghosts

Ever seen a ghost? Me neither but I have been in a number of places spooky enough for me to believe that I may have seen anything or nothing, the mind plays funny tricks like that. Trying to catch a ghost on camera of course makes the chances even more unlikely although do a web search and there are strange looking pictures out there where someone has seen something.

For fun I decided that I would like some ghost pictures and of course thanks to photo editing tools the impossible becomes practical. The two examples attached gives an idea of what can be achieved when you play around with images.

Ghost Train

Ghost Train

In ghost Train I had an image of an abandoned section of railway track and it didn’t take much of a search to find an image of an old steam train coming head on to compliment it. Built in two layers the background is darkened and colourised blue to resemble a night scene. Cut-out the image of the train to be the foreground, scale to size, add a few extras like the lamp and smoke, add some motion blur to give it that out of focus look then adjust transparency so that the background shows through.

Blue Spectre

Blue Spectre

A similar process was used for the Blue Spectre except that I wanted this image in daylight. I’d taken this shot in the beautiful old basement of the ruined abbey at Battle England and thought it created the right mood and a great background. Previously I’d taken some shots of some dancers in medieval costume so utilising the same process I cut-out one of them, scaled, blurred and adjusted transparency to suit. The end result was I believe effective and a bit of fun though I don’t image for a second that they would fool anyone, I’m open to comment.

Further digitally manipulated images can be found in this sites gallery ‘Digital Enhancement’, as well as high resolution versions available through my online shop, please enjoy.

Sunset Opportunities

The sunset time of day can present more varied opportunities than just photographs of the sky with a few interesting clouds in them. That very low sun can set the mood for contra jour shots where as expected you take directly into the light, this would give a strong silhouette to the foreground structure which could be a tree, pier, building etc and show the brightness of the sky behind. The first of these two images demonstrates the basic silhouette effect achieved by shooting into the light and can be achieved at most times of the day.

Silhouette Marker

Silhouette Marker

Alternatively however the lighting of this time of day can be used to accentuate the foreground and produce almost no sky imagery at all, whilst still contra jour. This very different second image of the cyclists was taken utilising the warmth of the setting sun, this creates a very moody atmosphere.

The long ride home

The long ride home

This shot was taken whilst walking along the banks of the river Arno in Florence, the sun was directly in my eyes and all these cyclists were passing me heading home no doubt. The opportunity was too good to miss so with the opportunity of high shutter speeds from my trusty Canon EOS DSLR I listened for the cyclist coming up behind and shot as they went past.

High resolution versions of my photographs are available through my online shop, please enjoy.

Sunrise, Sunset

OK, there you are, on holiday, or down on the beach for the day, or having a relaxing stroll in the hills, its early evening and the sun is setting on the horizon when suddenly the sky lights up in gorgeous colour, yellow, orange, deep red. You know it’s only going to be there a short while and you have your camera with you, hands up those who would take the shot, then another and then watch the spectacle, well who wouldn’t, I see a lot of hands.

OK, there you are, its 5am and you’re snug in bed when suddenly the day breaks in gorgeous colour, deep purples and blues leading to oranges and yellows before disappearing altogether, your camera is on the drawers next to you so of course you leap out of bed, race out of the house and capture the moment. Better still you get up in the dark and head to a favourite location to capture the moment as it happens, hands up those who would take the shot, then another and then watch the spectacle, I don’t see many hands at all.

Sunrise in the Barossa Valley

Sunrise in the Barossa Valley

Sunset Example 1

Sunset Example 1

Sunset Example 2

Sunset Example 2

Both of course can be spectacular but you can guess which one there are more shots of. For the record I’m not really a morning person, I will take sunrise if I have to be up or specifically plan to be up but mostly I concentrate on sunsets so that I can use them as backdrops to create something else.

One thing is certain, lots of cloud formations make more interesting displays so straight after a storm is a great time. One other thing is certain, most times that you wait for a spectacular sunset to occur the light just fades away to nothing so when they do occur capture it all.

Attached is a sunrise and some example sunsets taken with my Canon EOS DSLR that could only end up as backdrops.

High resolution versions of my photographs are available through my online shop, please enjoy.

Digital Manipulation 2

Following on from ‘Digital Manipulation 1’ which looked into a simple replace the background effect there are times when the original subject becomes the basis for a totally different image. Some time ago when I was in England I visited the ancient stone circle of Stonehenge. It’s about 5000 years old and no-one is certain about its original purpose though the site is impressive and (unfortunately for photographers) very popular which means lots of tourists, which of course means lots of people getting into the shots. A little patience (and timing) and this can be reduced to a manageable few which a photo editing tool can soon remove. A little editing work and I was left with a basic shot of a pile of stones, not the mysterious symbol of antiquity that springs to mind, fine if you want to show it in the “this is what I saw in England’ album but not for the creative file.

I do like to play around with phot editing tools though and decided to use this to create the atmosphere I wanted.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge original

Stonehenge in England

Stonehenge after processing

To start I cut out the sky and replaced it with one that was dark and broody, removed all colour and then colourised to a dark deep blue to turn it all into a night image, removed the rear stones onto a separate layer and added a burst of light into a layer in the center of the stone circle. The advantage of the separate layers enables individual adjustment without affecting the other parts of the image, added highlights to the stones catching the light and to the clouds above. A bit more adjustment in contrast here and there and I ended up with a result that is totally different to the starting point and created the mood I was after, something that could never have been achieved in a straight photo. OK I admit that this was not something that I achieved in 10 minutes and I made numerous layer versions to achieve the effect I was after but it demonstrates what can be achieved if you set your mind to it, as a bonus it was fun.

Further digitally manipulated images can be found in this sites gallery ‘Digital Enhancement’, as well as high resolution versions available through my online shop, please enjoy.