September Highlights

September ninth month of blogging, and this month I got published on Day 254 – not something that was in the plan at the start of the year, but something that helps me feel that the journey was worth while. I am delighted to see my photo in print. I captured a solar eclipse in detail, and I pushed myself further than I thought possible.

I have also agreed to join the committee of my local camera club, taking on the role of publicity officer – and look forward to finding out more about that role. Continue reading

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Day 273 – HDR Woodland Scene

What is HDR? HDR means high dynamic range and is able capturing and breaking out all the details in the shadow and in the highlights, it can make a real looking image (my preference) or something very surreal.

Today I thought I would try a comparison of the HDR tools that I have access to. I set up my tripod in the New Forest, I had the polarising filter on so that I could capture the detail in the water, and took a photo at F20, ISO 100 with a variety of shutter lengths to ensure that I captured 5 images of the same scene – one with average exposure, and then 2 stops of light either side.

The oringinal 5 images1
The oringinal 5 images

I have got a number of different ways I can take these 5 images and develop them to include so that I have a high dynamic range.

The first adaption was done in Lightroom CC – straight from the files above. It has coped really well with the leaves moving in the breeze on the trees and I think it maps the colours the best.

Lightroom Automatic HDR setting
Lightroom Automatic HDR setting

A totally different feel to the image – the blues are bluer, the leaves less sharp and the colours more saturated in the image below – this was opened in Photoshop and the HDR pro tool was used – choosing photorealistic as the option. There are a lot more options available to edit the image this way, and a lot more fine tuning that can take place – but this default application does not look as natural looking.

Merged into Photoshop HDR Pro - chose Photorealistic HDR
Merged into Photoshop HDR Pro – chose Photorealistic HDR

Taken into photoshop cc again, but this time edited with a plugin from the Google Nik Collection – the detail on the tree trunk is amazing, it has handled the movement in the leaves much better and water almost takes on an iridescent glow.

Edit via photoshot with HDR efex pro - detailed
Edit via photoshot with HDR efex pro – detailed

The HDR Efex Pro plugin allows you to stimulate the HDR effect on just a single image – so I worked it’s magic with just one exposure – and the leaves are nice and sharp – as there was no movement to deal with. There is not as much detail in the moss and the water – but if you have not taken five shots originally I think it makes a great attempt at capturing the full range of colours.

Photoshop - HDR effects Pro - just on one image.
Photoshop – HDR effects Pro – just on one image.

HDR Effects Pro, and Photoshop HDR pro can both by pushed to the extremes – an example of which I have included below. It is not a style I like – but it is interesting to try just so that I understand the capabilities of the software.

Extreme HDR editing with HDR efex pro via Lightroom  for a Surreal effect
Extreme HDR editing with HDR efex pro via Lightroom for a Surreal effect

The experiement is an interesting one – 5 original images taken at the same settings with just exposure differences – edited slightly differently all with the “HDR” options and 5 very different end results … it certainly highlights that if you don’t get the result you are trying for – try again, but equally you realise that it could be a real timewaster as you edit and edit and loose sight of what you were trying to say through making the image come alive.

Finally as I was out walking in the woods – I spotted some more fungi … there were amazing – but I did not make the photos, I took them as record shots… as looking back at them I can see the errors!

Forest fungi - ISO200, F10, 1/80sec
Forest fungi – ISO200, F10, 1/80sec
Forest Fungi - ISO 400, F10, 1/10sec
Forest Fungi – ISO 400, F10, 1/10sec

Day 272 – Morning Dew Bokeh

At the weekend I shared some photos of some experiments on my lawn with a reflector. I also spend some time capturing the dew drops, and felt that I wanted to share those in a separate blog post.

Today’s set up:

  • Canon 100mm macro lens
  • Tripod – with the centre pool reversed and the camera hung underneath
  • A shutter release cable
  • A reflector

I wanted to practice my focusing for macro – I don’t seem to always focus as sharp as I know i should be able to … so the dew drops would provide an opportunity to experiment. Continue reading

Day 271 – Lunar Eclipse – Chasing the Dark

Sunday night, the early hours of Monday morning – a lunar eclipse or super blood moon should take place. I tired to capture a Solar Eclipse earlier in the year, so this afternoon I have researched what I need to know to capture a lunar eclipse … if I remember to get up…

Essential Kit:

  • Tripod
  • Zoom Lens
  • Shutter release cable – to prevent vibrations
  • Flask of coffee and some warm clothes.
  • A dark location, clear skies with a interesting view

My research online included a number of articles:

Timings for the eclipse
Timings for the eclipse

I started taking photos where the Moon entered Penumbra at 1.15am and set my camera up to take a photo every two minutes and then merged them in Star Stax.

PhotoChallenge-32-46-1

I was amazed how far the moon moved in two minutes – but it did not move enough … my moon’s overlapped. and in 15 photos – 30 minutes the moon had traveled completely across my frame. I amended the settings to 3 minute intervals and took a test shot.

PhotoChallenge-54-57-2

The eclipse had started 2.15am onwards – the eclipse has started and I have something to share….

3 minute intervals
3 minute intervals

As the eclispe started to happen the sky got dramatically darker – I had to increase the ISO, widen the aperture, lengthen the shutter speed – just to get the shot … and the 3 minute gaps were too far apart… I switched to 20 secs …

ISO6400, F7.1, 1/4 sec - I exposure every 20 secs
ISO6400, F7.1, 1/4 sec – I exposure every 20 secs

I struggled to capture the orange glow – viewable by eye but not my camera … and then I did it – it is a bit noisy and fully zoomed it on my Sigma 150-500mm lens – but I am pleased with it!

During the eclipse
During the eclipse

It is amazing how quickly the moon moves across the sky – these were taken about 1min 20 secs apart during the full eclipse, over Lymington in the New Forest.

ISO6400, F7.1, 1/4 sec - Full eclispe over Lymington
ISO6400, F7.1, 1/4 sec – Full eclipse over Lymington

I zoomed out so I could capture the eclipse moving across the sky – with ISO6400 – it is grainy… but my F stop was as wide as it could get and my shutter speed as slow as I could risk it. It is amazing how far the moon moves in just 28 minutes. I am delighted with the timing between exposures – as each photo is separate from the one before – I then stacked the images in my editing software.

ISO6400, F7.1, 1/4 sec - every 2 mins 20 secs during the eclipse
ISO6400, F7.1, 1/4 sec – every 2 mins 20 secs during the eclipse

As the moon begins to leave the Umbra – my battery ran out …  and the moon had moved out of frame – so a quick change and to re-position the camera…  I am now not sure how long I will be able to track it for, and it is starting to get brighter. I already made the decision to reduce the ISO, but this time I wanted to capture the orange glow – would would mean blowing out the highlights. I photo every 2 minutes 20 secs and wow…  this is what I wanted to achieve.

ISO2000, F7.1, 1/4 sec - the eclispe begins to end.
ISO2000, F7.1, 1/4 sec – the eclispe begins to end.

My final combination… these are all edited jpg’s – I had to pause the camera and move it a couple of times and adjust the settings –  but this is the iconic shots I have always wanted to capture of an eclipse.

Tomorrow I might look at the raw files and add my best images … but I had an amazing evening – my three teens and my hubby slept through the night and I got to take photos in my p’j’s and share them…. It has been a long night … I got up at 1.30am … and took my last image at 5.35am … if you have enjoyed my images please follow my blog, share my page, click like and I would love to hear your comments below…. and you are welcome to sponsor me too (I am raising money for research into my son’s rare medical condition.)

The eclipse ending - captures between 4.46am and 5.31am
The eclipse ending – captures between 4.46am and 5.31am

Finally

How was it done – my laptop was tethered to my computer upstairs – saving jpg’s to the hard drive – I was then sync that folder with my main computer to do the edits during the eclipse and so I could alter my settings as I went along. I have never used live tether before … and it works great. Looking at these photos I think I am ready for the next eclipse – 31st January 2018 for me!

From start to finish ... amazing!
From start to finish … amazing!

And after looking at the raw file (the above were all jpg files) – I think this image sum up why we should should raw.

Processed Raw file of the moon
Processed Raw file of the moon

Day 270 – Morning Reflectors

Today I went outside to enjoy the morning dew – it was beautiful. A sign that Autumn is on its way, my grass needs cutting and a great reason to get close and look at the details with my macro lens.

Today’s set up:

  • Canon 100mm macro lens
  • Tripod – with the centre pool reversed and the camera hung underneath
  • A shutter release cable
  • A reflector

I focused on some toadstools in my lawn Continue reading

Day 269 – Visit to a Photographic Studio

I have mentioned before that I follow a number of photography groups online, and last week I saw a post offering the opportunity to visit a  photographic studio – Old Bakery Studio, use their lights and equipment, their infinity cove and to have the opportunity to photograph a motorbike.  I have never tried to photograph a motorbike – but then I have also never been in a professional studio, so I decide to give it a go. The event was organised by Richard from Mad about Macro, and was the first of many events he hopes to run in future.

ISO800, F5, 1/20sec - Working in a studio with other photographers.
ISO800, F5, 1/20sec – Working in a studio with other photographers.

It was a brilliant evening – there was about a dozen photographers there, all with different levels of experience and all took it in turns to use the equipment. We all had come across Richard through a variety of sources – some from Highcliffe and Infinity Camera Club, some from Lymington Camera Club, all of us had something in common we wanted to take more photos and were happy to share what we knew already. There was quite a strong opinion that club photography was about competitions, not so much doing practical sessions – and I discovered that we had several mutual friends – as a lot of people belong to more than one camera club – I just don’t have the time!

There was another occasion where I was meeting a group of people whom I did not know – but this time I felt much safer this time – partly the confidence I gained from the last experience and because we were meeting and staying in a fixed location. Everyone was friendly and welcoming, there were mainly canon users, but a good mix of canon and sigma lens, and some lovely homemade cake offered half way through.

This is early on in the shoot. The lights are set so that there is a shadow on the wall. ISO100, F11, 1/250sec
This is early on in the shoot. The lights are set so that there is a shadow on the wall. ISO100, F11, 1/250sec

The lights were there to be positioned and set up correctly… the above photo really highlights the importance of “chimping” my image, and learning about what I can see in the view finder. There is a huge shadow in this image and the lights had to be moved to compensate for this. I also realized that  although I want the background to be white I don’t want to blow out the highlights on my subject.

ISO2000, 1/50sec, F6.3 - no flash.
ISO2000, 1/50sec, F6.3 – no flash.

I did some research before hand to help me think about what I wanted to photograph, I read a little about what makes the best angle, about focusing on some of the details. The conclusion of which was to make images from low angles at the font of the bike – however it was important to experiment – above the angle looks all wrong! this was taken without the studio lights attached – I upped the ISO and shot it in Av – you can see how the white balance is different, and close up the ISO offers a lot more grain!

ISO100, F7, 1/160sec - Studio Lights
ISO100, F7, 1/160sec – Studio Lights

Using the studio lights I was able to capture a whole more detail – although I am disappointed that the highlights overpowered the wind visor at the front.

ISO100, F8, 1/200 Ssec - studio flash
ISO100, F8, 1/200 Ssec – studio flash

Experimenting with different crops again creates a different feel – I thought about the space the bike might move into in the above image and wanted to think about a square crop for instagram.

On previous occasions when I have worked with a model they have talked about the importance of communicating with the model. Neil, the bikes owner was a really interesting gentleman, he watched at times in amusement as between us we took 100’s of photo’s of his bike – it had done 6,000 plus miles since May – and I felt more relaxed with him once I got to know him slightly – I think talking to the model puts both people at ease – and this was the first time I stepped out of my comfort zone and gave it a try… (phew – I think it was scary thinking about it rather than doing it – I hope he never knew how nervous I was!)

One of the things I found out about Neil was that he use to take photos in the 70’s… and amazingly he came along to the studio to be our model for the evening because he was asked, he was also amazed at how much thingshad changed since then…  I think that is also why he looks amused – in the days of dark rooms and only 24 exposures a lot more time would have been taken on compensation rather than chimping!  I took his email and promised to send him a photo.

ISO100, F8, 1/200 sec - Studio Flash
ISO100, F8, 1/200 sec – Studio Flash

But as well as talking to the model, I need to learn to give them instructions – looking back at this photo now, he looks too relaxed and almost resigned to the flashes going off – it would have looked better if he was holding onto the handlebars. I have changed into to black and white though – as to me Harley Davidson’s are a classic – and with the gentleman in the hot seat – I think it suits a timeless feel. The wall is also not as white as I thought it was ….

Handheld - no flash. close up of the motorcylist
Handheld – no flash. close up of the motorcyclist
ISO100, F10, 1/125sec - Studio Flash
ISO100, F10, 1/125sec – Studio Flash

Helmet on and you can’t see his eyes, helmet off and he is not suitable to drive on he UK roads… either way he needs to be holding on to the bike if I was going to add an appropriate background.

iSO1600, F5, 1/60sec - No Flash
ISO1600, F5, 1/60sec – No Flash

The shot I got of Neil holding the handlebars was taken when I was not tethered to the flash, I had pushed my ISO up and the result is grainy. It does however look almost like he was driving at me .  Another great shot of Neil holding on to the bike, was taken by a different photographer – whilst I looked on –  I had to push up my ISO again as I did not have the flash attached – but it just made me smile – Richard (the photographer) was taking Armchair photography to new lengths!

Armchair Photography - a different take. ISO800, F5, 1/30sec
Armchair Photography – a different take. ISO800, F5, 1/30sec

I had read online about the fact that it was important to focus in on the details of the bike – that is what bikers like to see… so I got closer and focused on some of the shiny bits …. I am sure they all have technical names – all I know is that they were very shiny, the bike almost glowed and that also meant they were very reflective.

A close up of various parts of the motorbike and lots of photographers.
A close up of various parts of the motorbike and lots of photographers.

Once I started looking into the details – it was amazing how many photographers there were in the reflections, but looking closely it is not just the photographers that are reflected in the scene – there are parts of the studio too… which would need to be edited out if this was for an editorial shoot – suddenly the reason why you want a giant white box makes a huge amount of sense.

Reflections - ISO160, F6.3, 1/125 sec - Studio Flash
Reflections – ISO160, F6.3, 1/125 sec – Studio Flash

However some reflections have a purpose – and this one was done with a purpose in mind.  This was my first studio shoot, and my first time having a good look at a Harley – I needed evidence that I was there … so this reflection was taken on purpose. Amazing to think I dressed to work well with the colours of the image 🙂

A selfie is a Harley - ISO160, F6.3, 1/125sec - Studio Flash
A selfie is a Harley – ISO160, F6.3, 1/125sec – Studio Flash

One of my favorite images from the shoot.

Black and White Edit, studio flash - F10, ISO100, 1/125sec
Black and White Edit, studio flash – F10, ISO100, 1/125sec

I came away thinking:

  • I am going to use the triggers I have for my flash more – as these are the same ones we were using to set off the studio lights.
  • Use off camera flash and studio lights opens up a whole new world about photography
  • If I am switching between flash and no flash – I need to set up my colour balance to Auto … if I am just using flash then setting the white balance at the start of the shoot would be a good idea (hence my colours are all over the place!)
  • Manual mode is essential with flash – you can’t use Av – as it can’t predict the amount of light you are going to add to the scene.
  • Getting to know the model and talking to them helps everyone feel more relaxed and tell them what you want them to do is essential
  • The subject of the image does not matter – if it gives you the opportunity to try something new.
  • Take your time – you don’t need 500 OK images – you need 1 or 2 you are happy with.
  • It is difficult looking for different angles from the other photographers – but you need to think about what the end images are for
  • Reflections can be a nightmare and you need to be aware of them.
  • These sessions were not for a total beginner – you needed to have a grasp of your iso, shutter speed, aperture and exposure, know how to operate your camera – as everyone was working different models – to really get the most out of the session. I would however recommend it and I hope to attend again.
  • I had a great time ….

Day 268 – Photography for Bloggers Part 1a

I was not happy with the photos that I took for day 266 – my first attempt at flatlay, so I had to choices – to go away and try a different style of photography or have another attempt at this one. A second attempt won – after all the idea of the blog was to improve my photography, so stopping when I find something hard, is not the way I will learn new skills.

Flatlay might not be a style of photography that I like – all though many of the examples I have seen a very pleasing on the eye – they do include skills that are useful in all aspects of photographer – cross transferable skills.

So where to start … more research, I had a look on google and I read up:

  • Styling flatlay photography – I need to create a story, or think about what I want the photo to communicate. There are loads of ideas here.
  • Flat Lay photography tips – a video – I watched a demonstration on the thought process, and which talked about natural light creating the right tones.
  • I read up about light – not for just flatlay but for still life images – I found her light diagrams really helpful.
  • Adding contrast and brightening the picture works well.. along with keeping a theme.
  • A really useful bluetac tip in this blog along with encouragement that it takes practice.
  • I never even thought of “flatlay” for clothes – this could be a great way to display products, presenting them into a situation to create a mode.

Today I choose the room based on the light available – not based on where I wanted to take the photo.  I took the last photos in my lounge – it is south facing, with lots of direct sunlight, even though I tried to diffuse it through a sheet – today I headed west – and used my kitchen floor … as I often think the light in there is much softer. I think something has just dawned on me – it is about the light – not the space available…. why do I therefore use my lounge….

My inspiration – afternoon tea … the story – time for a break … peppermint tea, biscuits, pretty plates – I thought more about the composition. I wanted to include flowers – ideally pink ones, to match the flowers on the cups – my crop includes part of a daisy … I should have cloned it out … but it is a good example of including something that should not have been included. My papermint tea – matched my phone case … and I had the idea of including a web site on my phone that related to the post.

Afternoon Tea - F8, 1/80sec, ISO200
Afternoon Tea – F8, 1/80sec, ISO200

I rearranged – included more of the daisies, tossed in some mint to reflect the peppermint flavour of the tea, swapped the biscuits for cake and I removed my phone case as I thought it looked too heavy –  the mint looks messy, the daisies unrelated and I think the phone now looks too dark.

ISO160, F8, 1/80sec
ISO160, F8, 1/80sec

I tried again – I cropped closer – made the focus the story – my tea break… a cup of tea and a read of my phone – the image I wanted on the phone was not clear enough so I photoshopped my own image into it and I like it.

Afternoon Tea close up - ISO200, F8, 1/80sec
Afternoon Tea close up – ISO200, F8, 1/80sec

Today I was doing a lot of work for the Coastguard Association – sorting out paperwork, preparing raffle prizes for an event at the weekend, so I thought I would take a photo themed to that – the blue and yellow colours work well together, the blue-tac trick was excellent and worked well. There are some shadows – it seemed to bounce back from my reflector rather than the light source.

Inspired by the work I am doing for the Coastguard Association today - ISo160, F8, 1/80sec
Inspired by the work I am doing for the Coastguard Association today – ISo160, F8, 1/80sec

Following the inspiration I have seen on other posts – I then choose to crop tighter to try and get the image to tell a story – I also edited the colours in lightroom to create a more muted image – I stuck to a square crop as instagram flatlays are usually a square crop. I like this image – it tells a story … coastguard, raffle, pen to write peoples names on …  and is perfect for a blog post!

Close Crop - faded - ISO160, F8, 1/80sec
Close Crop – faded – ISO160, F8, 1/80sec

So what I have learnt

  • Light is essential, I need to learn more about light
  • Less is more
  • Flatlays and still life images need to tell a story – you need to think about what to include, and equally what not to include
  • I have so much more to learn!

Day 267 – Printing and Digital Projection

Camera Club this week was amazing – an evening on monitor calibration and printer calibration for getting the most out of your prints and digital files …. I know the importance of both… I have a Spyder to calibrate my monitor… I use the correct colour profiles when I am printing on my expensive photo paper – but my images have never looked quite right – they often come back darker than I anticipated … I have never let on – I went to college and did Graphic Design for 2 years … but I had no idea why! Continue reading

Day 266 – Photography for Blogs – Part 1

I am doing an online course called Photography for Bloggers – I am not a blogger … or I wasn’t a blogger before I started my 365 project – but I might be. I share information online though this web site and through a variety of work related Facebook pages, so I can going to try include the old relevant post relating to the course as I hopefully my eyes are open into a new direction.

The course is not aimed at photographers necessarily… it is aimed at bloggers creating images to go with their content – this is different to someone blogging about photography…. you can take the photos on any device, but I am hoping it will increase my awareness in a different direction.

Week one, and I already challenge – produce a “flatlay” – great … I have never heard of a flatlay. But will a little research and watching the tutorials I am already learning something – a flatlay is a style of still liife photography… so I am going to have a go. It is able composing the subject and taking a photo directly above the subject on a horizontal plain with lovely lighting.

You have to consider:

  • The backgound
  • The lighting
  • What to include in the image to tell your story – colours have to complement each other, the image had to composed – the position of each detail through about and the end presentation considered.
  • Making sure the camera is positioned correctly … so the image is really a flat lay.

This was way harder than I imagined …

Cooking Flaylay
Cooking Flaylay

I had no idea what to take a picture of – the idea I think is to take something for your blog that relates to your blog content – my blog is about the photography,  but today I am given a blank canvas – I have to create the image rather than see it … and I just don’t know where to go with it.

My first attempt – fresh muffins, chocolate and coffee on a brown background… nice neutral tones, but I really don’t know why I put the marshmallows in – they are not relevant. Looking at the image you have to really think about what to include or what not to include. I also wasn’t on the right horizontal plane – I should not be able to see the side of the cup if the camera was at the right angle … I have a lot to learn.

Beach themed Flatlay
Beach themed Flatlay

A different scene – a different background – coloured paper, sea shells and a pebble … this one I feel works better, but rather than an irregular scattering or stones – I am not sure if the shells work …  I can see this style there definitely working to create interest in a subject – but what is the subject here – a love story on the beach perhaps?

Beauty Backlay
Beauty Backlay

A third attempt … goodies from the bathroom… the colours work really well together – but the background is too textured it is competing with the objects in the foreground. I am not level again … the tutorial said use a tripod – I didn’t … I need to set up my space and do it properly – taking short cuts won’t work … I need to get it right and with still life – you really need to get it right.

The image below – I moved some of the items around, I recomposed and took a different shot – the background is less obvious and it works better – but the lights is not right either.

Beauty Backlay
Beauty Backlay

I have come to the conclusion I need to try again – I can’t just change the subject when the image is not right, I need to come up with a subject that represents my blog post, compose it to tell a story about the article I am writing and try again. Maybe even tomorrow!