Pembrokeshire – 4

This was taken from the harbour wall at Saundersfoot.  I’m not sure what he was doing, but I think that he was searching for molluscs of some type.

Searching For Shellfish

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Monochrome Moments – 5 (More Sand, and a Stick)

This one continues from Monochrome Moments – 4, it also having been taken in the dunes of Fuerteventura.  This was a snapshot taken because of the potential appeal of the intersecting diagonals of the sand ripples and stick.  Monochrome conversion was again made with Topaz, and I also chose to retain a ‘warm’ look to the image because it seemed in keeping with the scene.  I did consider a more ‘stark’ B&W conversion, but didn’t like any of my results as much.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is another of those rather minimalist images which, when you look back, you wonder whether it was really worth taking.  Having played with it a bit, I think it probably was, just.

Update!

I wasn’t really happy with this image so I took some advice from Adrian Lewis.  I’ve increased the contrast a bit (quite a bit), and the result is below.  I could probably go still further but think this may be enough.  I didn’t do this before because I am always a little nervous of ‘overprocessing’.

Stick and SandAny better?

Monochrome Moments – 4

I rarely go back to my ‘holiday’ snaps, looking for potential monochrome images.  A recent post from Mike Osborn’s prompted me to look at some old photos from Fuerteventura, and I think that I must start doing it more often.  I found this one.  It’s not as good as Mike’s, but it does show that the sun doesn’t always shine there.  I quite liked the drama in the sky, and also the receding ‘mountains’ (really only little volcanic hills).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI used a slightly ‘warm’ conversion from the Topaz presets because I thought that it might fit with the actual colours of the landscape better.  Personally, I think that the mono image is better than the original, which I have included below for comparison.  I know that the original shows the sand colour correctly, but mono shows more drama in the sky and the wind blown ‘ripples’ in the sand more clearly.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFuerteventura is a barren island in the Canaries, best known for sunshine, beaches and strong winds, which give the island it’s name.  These images are from the Sand Dunes immediately south of Corralejo, at the north end of the island.

Fisheye Fun – 5

One serious problem with ‘fisheye’ photos is the difficulty of keeping unwanted elements out of the eventual image.  Since I’ve had this lens, I have taken numerous closeup pictures of fingers, thumbs, and camera straps, but I am now getting the hang of it.

The lens is still fun at the moment.  The Lloyd’s Building seemed to be crying out for attention when on a recent walk in London.  The only unwanted element in this one was a car parked in the lower right.  The clone tool fixed this!

Largely LloydsI had to decide whether to make this a Monochrome Moment or a bit of Fisheye Fun.  I thought Fisheye ruled for this one.

Monochrome Moments – 3

I’ve touched on Camera Club competitions before.  Well, we had another Camera Club competition last night and the theme for this competition was ‘Monochrome’, so I thought that a post about my efforts in this competition might fit the ‘Monochrome Moments’ series quite well.  I know that some ‘online photographers’ don’t have much time for Camera Clubs and competitions, and I do understand that point of view.  The Club does, however, get me out on a Monday night and it’s good to be able to mix with like minded people.  I also have a bit of a competitive streak in me, so it seems natural to enter the competitions and give support to the Club’s efforts in running them.

The Judge for this competition was very experienced, so I don’t think that there was much dissent from the opinions that he passed on the evening’s images, certainly not from me.  I thought that I would use ‘Monochrome Moments – 3’ to describe what I may have learned from last night’s judging of one of my entries.

Although sometimes I have managed to shoot specifically for a competition, frequently I find myself trawling through recent images that I have taken, trying to decide what might make a suitable entry.  For this competition I needed four images but this post will talk about just one.

None of the observations that the judge made are new.  We are all aware of the potential pitfalls that a photographer can make.  The problem is that we can also momentarily forget some of these pitfalls when we spot an image that we think just needs to be captured.  This was what I was guilty of when pressing the shutter release on this occasion.  The next image is the one that I entered although the original vision was of a colour image.

The sun was low, the scene was peaceful and I really loved the reflections.  I wanted to capture these reflections.  I also wanted to use the path to the Mill as a ‘lead in’, and I spotted the small boat pulled up on the shore on the right hand side, thinking that this might add interest to the scene. Click!

Carew Tidal MillGo on – pull it apart.  Well, the Mill isn’t ‘on a third’, which I thought was acceptable bearing in mind I had already considered what I wanted to show.  The power lines and poles hadn’t really been considered.  I think I knew that they were there, but didn’t think them an issue at the time.  The judge last night did appreciate the reflections, but thought that the right hand end of the image was not worth keeping.  He would rather have seen the Mill depicted in a portrait configuration, which would have had the benefit of removing ‘the ugly post on the right’ (his words).  Sometimes ‘less’ is ‘more’ was a message that he passed several times during the evening.  I couldn’t get a ‘vertical’ crop without loosing the ‘lead in’ from the bottom left, so I opted to try a square crop. Carew Tidal MillSince the judge didn’t like the power lines and the post on the right, I took the opportunity to remove the rest of them.  Here is a ‘letterbox’ crop like the original effort, but with the offending electricity removed.

Carew Tidal MillHaving listened to the judge’s words, and taken another critical look at the image, I have to agree with him.  I do now think that the square crop is best, even though I do still like the original ‘letterbox’ crop.  What I have learned is that I do need to be much more critical at the stage where the image is recorded, and also that it is well worth exploring the options when preparing an image for competition, posting or printing.  Available time is of course the thing that will likely make me forget what I have learned.

That’s it for Monochrome Moments – 3.  Perhaps another of my entries for last night’s competition will make it into Monochrome Moments – 4.

Monochrome Moments – 2

The next one in this series is also from our walk around London at the end of October.  Having walked through the City, we were returning to the South Bank over the Millenium Bridge.  Having just fitted my Samyang Fisheye, I thought it would be worth a bit of a ‘panorama’ looking downstream towards The Shard.  I guess that I could have used this image in the Fisheye Fun series, but having done a mono conversion, I thought that this series might be more appropriate.

Although it is not so far, the fisheye lens makes Tower Bridge appear miles away.  The B&W conversion was done by ‘fiddling around’ in Topaz B&W Effects.  I can’t remember the actual adjustments now.

From The Millenium BridgeI guess that if I could have worked out how to do it, this could have been an entry into the five days black and white challenge suggested by Mike Osborn in his comment to my Monochrome Moments – 1.  I may just go ahead and post a few more on a daily basis anyway.

Monochrome Moments – 1

I’ve been dabbling more and more with B&W conversions of my photos.  I really like the way it can transform shots taken on a gloomy day, but I also find that removal of the distraction of colour can often allow a better appreciation of the picture.  I’m beginning to think that almost any picture can make a good B&W image, although bold shapes, patterns, textures and strong contrast produce the best.

In the future, I will probably post a fair few monochrome images.  This is the first of my Monochrome Moments. It was snapped when walking past 20 Fenchurch street, otherwise known as the Walkie Talkie building, in the City of London.

The Walkie TalkieIn this image, we have mainly shapes, lines and texture.  The texture is provided by the ‘sunshade’, introduced since the ‘solar glare’ off the south face of the original building was responsible for melting parts of the bodywork of a number of cars.

Actually, this B&W version is not so different from the original colour shot, which looked pretty monochrome on that day.

An Elephant photo, treated using Topaz Detail 3

Last year, I posted ‘Elephants 3 – Another White Elephant, with Zebra (Mono)‘.  That image was shot back in 2006, when I was using a Sony DSC-H1 Bridge Camera.  I really liked the image, but the small sensor in that camera made it difficult to obtain much ‘selective focus’ and the image was too sharp from front to back.

Because I liked the image, particularly when presented in B&W, I decided to use a variation of it in a recent B&W Camera Club competition.  I’ve often said that I am not much good at using Photoshop, but regardless of this limitation, I felt that I needed to try to simulate some ‘selective focus’ in this image if I was going to use it in a Club competition.  I spent ages selecting different parts of the image and using layers to apply different levels of blur.  I wish that I hadn’t bothered.  The Judge didn’t like it, easily picking out those parts of the image that I had ‘worked on’.  I just wasn’t clever enough! 😦

Last year, I purchased the Topaz Suite, but didn’t have the time of patience to learn how to use the various parts of it properly.  This week, I thought that I would have a bit of a look at Topaz Detail 3, an application intended for selective sharpening of images.  I’ve still got a lot to learn, and I still lack patience, but I have been very impressed at how this software can produce excellent results.

I thought that I would apply it to the original ‘jpeg’ file of that Elephant photo.

In this post, I have presented a series of efforts to improve this image.  I hope that the differences are clear enough to show just what a ‘pigs ear’ I made of it before moving on to Topaz Detail 3.  Here goes.

The first image is the jpeg straight out of my Sony DSC-H1

Original jpeg from camera.

Original jpeg from camera.

The next image was a B&W conversion using one of the Lightroom presets.  I can’t remember which, but I was going for a fairly high contrast result.

Initial B&W conversion.

Initial B&W conversion.

The next image is where things really started to go wrong.  I attempted to use my pathetic Photoshop skills to simulate some ‘selective focus’ in the image by using a number of layers with differing levels of Gaussian blur.  It took a long time to select the elephant layer and the result wasn’t great.

Attempt to simulate 'differential focus' using Photoshop layers.

Attempt to simulate ‘differential focus’ using Photoshop layers.

It must be remembered that these last two B&W images were produced because I thought that the image lent itself to use in a Club B&W competition.

Some time later, after investigating Topaz Detail a little, I thought that the selective sharpening (and softening) available in this program might be useful for simulating ‘selective focus’.  I gave it a try, and these next two images took only a few minutes to produce.  Maybe there is scope for improvement, but I quite like them as they are.

After a few minutes work in Topaz Detail 3.

After a few minutes work in Topaz Detail 3.

B&W conversion after a few minutes work in Topaz Detail 3.

B&W conversion after a few minutes work in Topaz Detail 3.

Here they are again in a carousel so they can be displayed at a larger size where the differences are more evident.  Click on the first one to display the slide show.  Esc to end it.

I think the attempt to simulate ‘selective focus’ in the Topaz worked images is more subtle and was certainly achieved much more quickly.  Please feel free to comment as I know that I still have a very long way to go in improving my PP skills.  In particular, I always have trouble deciding just how much of an adjustment to make.

Monochrome Sunset Silhouette on the Somerset Levels.

Another B&W image.  Something has happened to my visual senses.  I’m starting to see more and more of my images which seem to yield a little more, or maybe just some different appeal, when rendered in monochrome, and I am enjoying it.

Having said that, I have just come home from a Camera Club monochrome competition, where 3 of my images, which I thought had some appeal, failed miserably to impress the judge, and one, which I only put in to complete my entry quota of 4, achieved a ‘highly commended’ from him.  My judgement ain’t that great.

Significant influences on my, perhaps temporary, leaning towards mono are Adrian Lewis, blogger at FATman Photos and Andy Beel, who gave a talk at our club last February.  I say ‘perhaps temporary’ because I still have a love of colour, but undeniably I am appreciating B&W to an increasing degree.  I’m still not seeing the images in B&W at the shutter pressing stage, though maybe I am becoming aware that lighting conditions could favour it.

I expect I will bore a few, who have often expressed a preference for colour images.  I apologise and please stick with me.  There will still be a lot of colour on this blog.  I am, however, likely to post quite a few B&W images in the future as well.

This is the first one.  It was originally posted quite recently in a gallery in After the Storms.

I liked that image, but I now think that I like this one more.  I fiddled around in Lightroom quite a bit before choosing this treatment.  I think that rendering it as a B&W silhouette, has enhanced the detail in the sky and its reflections in the flood water.  It has also improved the definition of the tree trunk, ivy and lower branches, where the sun was previously burning this detail out a little.

wpid-20140111-_1110067-2.jpgThe original is shown below, and I expect a few people will disagree with what I have said above.  Some may mourn the loss of the golden light on the reed bed.  Maybe I do a little.  As always, comments are most welcome and will help me to improve.wpid-20140111-_1110067.jpg

Pollarded Willows

It was another of those rather rare, nice sunny days, yesterday and another brief tour onto the Somerset Levels seemed appropriate.  We decided to take a quick look to see what Westhay Moor looked like after the storms.  To be honest, it didn’t look very different to usual.  During the tour, I spotted this row of pollarded willows and thought that there might be a photo in them.

wpid-20140119-_1190007.jpg

A careful look at the road surface shows quite well the common feature of roads in this part of Somerset, that is the subsidence, which I guess is caused by the continual soaking and drying of the peat on which they are built.

If you have missed them, and are interested, photos from my last two visits to the floods on the Somerset Levels can be found here and here.