Monday, 30 January 2017

A day with Rich and Verity

Verity and Rich point out the views

On the 26th November, I did something different.

I spent a day just photographing.

Now if I had my way it would be my default activity, but little things like earning money, looking after a family and all the other mundanities  of modern living means that even at weekends I am lucky to get with a camera for more than a couple of hours.

So how did I manage it this time?

It had been my plan all year to go somewhere a bit further afield with my camera. However I had been thwarted in that ambition largely by the need to transport my daughter to various open day destinations. .While I  love spending a day with my daughter, part of me did feel I had been slightly cheated out of quality camera time.

However in between the various doom and gloom that will forever categorize 2016, I had a tweet about a coming photography workshop run by Verity Milligan and Rich Jones, both photographers I had been following for a while(Verity in particular specializes in revealing the beauty of Birmingham, my home town).

A quick scan of  the calendar that cannot be disobeyed showed that my life (and more importantly my wife) had no plans for me that day. Even better it was within easy traveling distance(about an hour). So in a uncharacteristic fit of decisiveness I decided to go for it

Now the reason I don't often do these sort of things is that a) I am not always that comfortable in groups of strangers and b) despite my best efforts, I find it brings out a competitive side I am not totally comfortable with.

The latter reason my biggest fault. Rather than revel in opportunity for collaboration, I can feel I will be judged by my results. As soon as I feel my efforts are not meeting those around me, I go into a spiral of self-doubt, recrimination and envy. I know, childish, but I have come to accept that is who I am, and so I have built coping mechanisms one of which is not to put myself in such situations.

Despite all this on the 26th November, I crept out the house and set out on a early foggy November morning to Paddock Gorge in the the Peak District, where I was to meet up with Verity and Rich together with my fellow photographers companions for the day.

Now I like to think that I know the Peak District well, walking extensively both in the dark and white peak areas. However for some reason Paddock Gorge had never come on the radar. Which is a pity because for a landscape photographer it had a bit of everything. Lichen covered forests, stands of Silver Birch, a step of small waterfalls.

To  be fair the fog meant that much of this was not instantly viewable. However the fog added something else, wonderful misty forests with great layering and depth of field of the trees. We had a chance to take some images of the stream that tumbles down the gorge. This was a good chance to get the ND filter out and try some milky water shots. To be honest these could of gone better, but I got a couple of shots of which were not too bad.

After lunch at a rather fine local hostelry,  the decision we made to go to surprise view. This was aptly named because the fog had come right down and it was almost impossible to see anything. However it did allow for some shots of shadows of misty trees. However just as we were thinking of giving up for the day  and the sun started going down, surprise view really lived up to its name as the fog condensed into the valley bottom, given one of the finest cloud inversions I have ever seen.

All in all, we could not of asked for better weather for photographic opportunities.

Which left me in a dilemma. What if my photos turned out to be pants? Now I could not blame the the landscape, or the weather. I even had advice on hand to help me get the best shots. If the shots did not turn out great, I only had myself to blame!

For that reason, I was very reticent in processing the images. In fact I didn't start looking at them in detail until late December. My initial impressions were of disappointment as I realised that photos had not really done justice to the day. This was not helped as images filtered in from the other members of the party on social media, seemingly putting mine to shame. 

Still as I reviewed them more I started elements I liked and eventually I manged to tease out acceptable shots. Of course there were some missed opportunities. For example there was a great ice bow on the day, but i did not think to put on a polarizing filter, so I failed to get any great definition.

However in the end I got some shots I really like, now I have had time to think about them.

So would  I do it again?

Well, if they could guarantee the same weather and views, I would say yes in a shot.  Both Rich and Verity were great company on the day, and I did take away some useful lessons from the day. My only regret was that I did not use there expertise as much as i should.

That was purely my fault.I think the best lesson is that if you pay to go on these sort of courses, leave all your experience behind. You have paid to learn, and the best way to do that is go with a blank slate.

Ended up with a lot of B&W. Silver Birch and fog, it is a winning combination

Got some great detail shots of this wall with moss. Must admit, one of my favorite images

Another B&W Silver Birch shot

The ephemeral qualities of this stand of Birch trees are great

This was a late bloomer, but put in B&W and with the fog background, I love the simplicity of the image

Surprise view living up to its name

Probably the only ND I was happy with. It took a while to get a position. I tried ages to get some leaves to swirl. in the end I gave up and had to be content with two still ones

As the sun burnt through, the colours were great

The cloud inversion

Friday, 13 January 2017

new year resolutions

So a new photographic year begins. What to do...

In truth the weather has been uniformly dreadful recently so it there has been little point going out, however the need to get back on my photographic horse was driven home to me yesterday in the 1st competition of the new year.

This was the panel of 4, which generally I enjoy since it provides some release from the constraints of things like wildlife competitions.

So how did I do.

Easy answer.....mixed.

While my prints were just a smidgen off 3rd place, unfortunately I had to be content with just a highly commended.The judge wanted to give very highly commended. However such a label does not exist and therefore the results will always show I was just an also ran.

The DPI however was even more disappointing. I was one of only 3 images not to be held back. This was a surprise because I thought the images and panel was strong.

In hindsight I still believe this, but I now feel I fell into the trap of not being ambitious enough. The winning entry was very different and in the past it is the kind of image I would of aspired to do. This time I just put 4 images together.

The failed entry....

That is the crux of my new year resolution. Recently I have become too orthodox. I have substituted quantity, rather than planning what my photos should show . I need to pare back and start adding some new long term goals.

I always said I would rather be considered different than good, but orthodox so it is time to rediscover that mantra.

In other news I have found that 2 photos got accepted for NEMPF, so this is a really good result and a step up in class. However it looks like I will have to now go by the name Derek, since that was how one of the images were labeled.

Maybe I should use that name from know on, since it is apparent Derek knows  more about photography than I do :)

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Creating a panel of 4

This time of year we have the panel of 4 competition. This means putting 4 images together into one image.

Because I only do this once a year I have to relearn over again how I do it again from scratch.

So this is my attempt to reduce that process and show my technique for creating such panels.

 I use in Photoshop CS2 to do this. Other editing tools maybe equally as good, but photoshop gives me some extra precision.  While this description is specific to CS2 I am sure the same process will work in later Photoshop versions or elements. I have not investigated other packages such as Serif Affinity

The Process

First we have to decide our layout. I  normally do this with a sketch on paper. This method works best when there are 4 equally sized images. If you want images of different sizes, it is more complex, but some of these techniques will also help in that scenario also.

This is the layout I am trying for. Basically 4 aligned images with a equal margin around them.

The critical measurements are the maximum size of the canvas which the images will be displayed, the width of our margin or frame. These in turn define the size of our panel images.

1st step is to calculate how big each image is going to be.

In my case I want each image to fit in a maximum canvas size of 1400px x 1050px, This in turn gives us our maximum size. I also want some sort of frame around each individual panel so this needs to be taken into account.

I want to have a margin of 4 pixels around image. In choosing a frame size it is easier to choose an even number of pixels, since it means you will not end up with half pixels in your image sizes.

The process is therefore

1. Decide the maximum size of your canvas
2. Decide the size of your margins
3. Workout the maximum size of your panels
4. Create your panel based on 1,2 and 3.

Working out the size of your image

(Warning this may contain maths)

Each image size will be calculated based on the following

(length of canvas side   - (3 x margin size))/2

As an example say we have a standard APS-C image size of 6000x4000 that we want to fit into our canvas with a margin size of 4 pixels

On the longest side, our new size would be (1400-(3x4))/2 which equals 694 pixels.

Because we want to maintain the image ratio, that would mean our new height would be (694/6000)*4000 which is ~463 pixels.

That would mean the minimum height of our canvas would  (3*4)+(463*2) or 938 pixels. Since this is within our required canvas size we will be OK. If this is not the case, you may want to use the height of the canvas as your initial canvas measurement

Therefore we need the following:-

  •  A new image of size 1400 pixels x 938 pixels with a background of the colour you want your margin to be
  • 4 images, each of size 694pixels  by 463 pixels

Creating the panel.

We create a new image of the required size. In our example we will create a canvas of 1400 x 938 pixels
We then need to place each image in the right place.

We take our 1st image and using the resize option in photoshop, resize it to 694 pixels x 436 pixels. We select and copy the image and then paste it into the new canvas. It should appear as a new layer.

The next step is to place the image accurately. This can be done by hand,  but it is more accurate to use the edit -> free transform tool

Select the layer you want to position and select the free transform option.

In the menu bar at the top, you will see a set of 9 dots in a shape of a square and next to that a set of dialog boxes. These define the image coordinates and what the values measurements are relative to.

We want the measurements to be relative to the background image top left hand corner. To do this click the square of dots in the top left hand corner.

In the position X dialog entry, enter the size of your margin (e.g 4 px). Similarly do the same in the Y box.  The layer should now be moved to the top left, with a margin of 4 pixels from the background canvas.

Click the tick box in the top menu bar to accept the transform.The 1st image should now be in the correct position in the top left with a 4 pixel margin between it and the edge of the canvas.

Now resize and paste the 2nd image, which is to be placed in the top right.

Again do a free transform, however this time the X coordinates will be (Frame size+Image Width+Frame size).

The process is the same for the images in the bottom left and bottom right, although the coordinates will be different. Here is a list of the coordinates :-

                           X                                                    Y
Top Left            Frame Width                                   Frame Width
Top Right          (Frame Width*2)+Image Width     Frame width
Bottom Left      Frame Width                                   (Frame Width*2)+Image Height
Bottom Right    (Frame Width*2)+Image Height     (Frame Width*2)+Image Height

So in our case the coordinates will be

Image 1 (4,4)
Image 2 (702,4)
Image 3 (4,471)
Image 4 (702,471)

Once you have done all 4 images, the image should be aligned with  a frame around it.

To finish you can expand the canvas to its maximum size by using the canvas resize tool to set it to the final size (1400 x 1050 pixels) with a black background set.

If you have images of different sizes more work is required, but the free transform tool is still the most accurate method of aligning images.