Monday, July 31, 2017

Getting up to some Mischief

My disdain for workshop or trainers that just teach their “work flow” as the ultimate (perhaps only) way to use software and carry out various photographic or artistic tasks is continuing to grow. Such attitudes are a guarantee to remove originality, innovation and individual expression. Those that religiously follow the “work flow” rules end up producing much the same work over and over again and whilst it can be good, even excellent it is soon an avalanche of sameness, blunting our interest. If you don’t believe take a look at someone scanning their social media. they thumbs or fingers are barely allow more that 2 second to view any image. Swipe. swipe, swipe….

I favour a lightly slow more honest evaluation of the tools, workspace and characteristics of the material. You still need some instruction in the basics but ability comes more quickly if you just play with the media and tools. Its not unlike many of the early craft guilds (which included painters, or newspapers in the old days when they had staff photographers). Here you where probably apprenticed to a master and they expected you to grind the pigments, mix the inks, wash the brushes and even sweep out the work shop. You got to handle all the media and saw how it was used and eventually you where guided into doing it yourself. Some apprentices adhered to the methods of their master but fortunately for us enough students experiments and expanded on what they had learnt and their masters where wise enough to encourage them. I believe the same approach needs to apply in using the modern tools or art and photography. The masters, can be those guru photographers and the You Tube Stars, you no longer need to be in their workshop but the familiarity with the workspace and the tools is still down to us, the “modern apprentices”.

I’ve told you all this because I want to resume short blog posts about the work space in software and the key tools to use, so that you can understand the steps in the work flows you are taught but also have enough confidence to experiment and try something of your own. I happened upon the Mischief sketching software whilst looking at ways to prepare some composition/notan sketches. It was a it was a real relaxation, simple to use and powerful at the same time, no work flow required. There is a free version which is perfect to get started with, and is what I am using here, If you an make a mark with a pencil on paper you good to go.

Mischief Workspace

The Mischief work space is a single screen and it normally starts in full screen mode. There is the normal windows style menus bar with drop down menu items that run all the programs function. Mischief Tool BarThe more commonly used are also shown in a vertical tool bar (normally over on the right). One very unique aspect of this work surface is the “canvas” you work on is that it is truly infinitely. You can scroll off the edge of the screen or zoom out to reveal more canvas. This an incredibly liberating feature. Start by drawing something that runs off the page, pan across a bit and keep drawing. The last two icons are for the the undo (another feature without a limit) and redo. All the tools and functions have keyboard short cuts, if you prefer those (look under help).

The next important set of tools are found in the brush panel (normally down on the lower left). The free version only has three brushes (aka pens) and Mischief Brushes Panelthey only have simple controls on size and opacity but this has been cleverly used to create a faint lines (pencil) for rough sketching a solid line (ink pen) and a thicker chisel style semi transparent line (Marker pen) These three pen will give you a decent sketching experience. probably the thing you will want to change most is the pen size, which uses the [ and ] brackets (for thinner & thinker) r the little slider pull out by clicking on the second bottom tab. the opacity can also be controlled by the number keys (again see the shortcut keys under the help menu.

The final on screen panel is the colour picker, normally on the upper left. Compared with many other packages this is a very simple format, but it does allow select for Colour (the slider under the colour square, Tone, the vertical position and Intensity, Mischief Colour Pickerthe horizontal position on the colour square. Unlike the paid version, the free version doesn’t have the ability to save your own swatch of colour, but size the canvas can be of infinite size you can place a small swtach of colours directly on just visible edge of the canvas, then return to that with the eyedropper to pick one of the few colours you have selected. So for simple composition sketch with 5 grey tone I have just used an approx 25% grey 50% grey, 75% grey & Black, using the white of the canvas as my 5th tone. You can either erase this later or just pan so that it is not displayed on the screen when you export a picture.

A really unique feature of this program (I haven’t seen another implement such a simple idea) is the ability to change the canvas opacity. This basically changes the canvas into tracing paper. Mischief Tool BarBy putting a suitable photo full screen and loading mischief over the top of it and either using the Window> Activate Window Opacity function from the menu or just use the slider on the side of the vertical tool bar. Moving the slider closer to 0% makes the canvas more translucent. You can trace lines of colour in the basic tonal shapes.

You really either need a Wacom style tablet of a touch screen with a pen, to get the natural feel of drawing. I have used it with the touch screen on my HP spectre and the touch mode on my old Bamboo tablet, but It is definitely wasn’t as good and trying to use the mouse is a little too fiddly. If you haven’t ever draw3 on a computer screen before the free version of the program is worth a trial. I’m already moving onto the Pro version (mainly to get layers & pins, more about those later hopefully. In the meantime never be afraid to experiment with your own “working methods” and occasionally just have a good “play”.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Deeper into Disappointment with Google

Over the years google has bought onto the internet a number of great software tools. I have and still use many of them, Blogger, picasa, gmail, My Tracks, Google Earth, Maps, Google Drive (Google Docs, Slides & Sheets), Nik Software, Snapseed). I’ve gone right off google photos (but still put up with it to publish photos into this blog). A number of these have been depricated and whilst they still work google no longer offers downloads, or alternative software and/or no support. The one thing they have been good with to date is giving warning and letting you download any personal data.


I have taken I liking to the idea of exploring that place between art and a photograph, in particular what I have been Hashtagging #AIart (on Instagram). Google created the Deep Dream generator originally as a way to explain how their image analysis technique worked. It is based on training neural networks (a type of artificially intelligent data miners). As well as recognizing objects, animals, people & things the networks can also be used to seek out style (ok in a rudimentary way, it can mimic marks making, line works, colour palette and several other features that make artworks original. The software does not create original art but it can take a photo and find that style of linework & colour etc within a photos. Some of the result are amazing. Unfortunately more and more examples that Style formating selection optionsI see produced by other  “copy cat” system are degenerating into the garish and boring, as they become very popular of social media.

Clearly google are looking to muscle in of the social media aspect and they have add a multilevel aspect to site membership (its free) and that is tied to number of public post and more importantly number of likes. A different levels you can only generate a specific number of a specific type/style of image with a set time frame.  So It only took me a couple of images to reach my limit with a polite come back and try again later. The type of thing that just plain kills exploration and creativity. The writing is on the wall google this is going to become a ghost town like google+

The one nice thing, is the UI (user interface has been smarted up a bit with better layout of selection buttons and other tools. Nothing new just a little bit cleaner to look at.

? info panel within Deep Dream One new feature, that I have asked for a few times, is better documentation of what was set up  to produce each result. It seems quiet common that most people (especially those new to deep dream) blanket bomb one image with many alternative networks/styles, and after doing several and waiting a decent time for each it is difficult to remember how you created a particular masterpiece. The ? Intro item now gives you a run down although it has only remembered a few of my style images.

Perhaps its another case of needing more likes?

No matter, such is life.

So Why am I complaining, the software tools are free?deep dream of a Perigrin Falcon

Friday, July 28, 2017

Tell him he’s dreaming

This was one of those good ideas at the time that took much more effort than I anticipated. I’m going to blame google for changing its deep dream geneator, It just took a long time to do something I concieved in a flash. That was to redo my week of photos as abstract deep dreams



Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Photo Worth Taking

A photo worth Taking
Sometimes there will be beautiful light and you don't have you camera, but you will have your phone. This was taken with my new HTC Uplay smartphone and its basic camera app in panorama mode. I’m certainly rethinking the need to carry a second camera body in my travels.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Day 7 :: Getting ready for the next Endless Summer Project

Day 7 :: Getting ready for the next Project

Repacking my camera bag in preparation for my next trip. Rather than pack on the last day I repack a couple of weeks out so I have time to realise if I am missing something important. During my year long art project travels I have been progressively trimming down the stuff I carry around.

My revised camera bag packing list has, starting at the top right and moving clockwise.

  1. My Pentax K20 (my favourite camera, with my favourite lens a Tamron 18 to 200mml zoom Note this camera now has a wrist strap, rather than cumbersome neck strap.
  2. In the side pocket of the camera bag I have cables, spare batteries etc in a zip up mesh bag.
  3. My Sigma 70-300 Zoom Lens
  4. A couple of white "Face washers" (to clean the cameras not the lenses)
  5. Blower Brush
  6. Lens pen (microfiber cleaner and brush)
  7. Business cards & pen
  8. My home made string monopod
  9. My ThinkTank Mirrorless Mover 30i Camera Bag. Although it is designed to carry a mirrorless camera system & Ipad mini I find to perfect for my gear in a relatively small shoulder bag. I also a small kit of sketching gear in the Ipad slot (not shown here but includes an A5 sketch book, couple of pencils & pens, waterbrush & small Cotman's watercolour Sketchers Box)
  10. Sealed packets of alcohol lens wipes (I haven't used these for a while prefer the lens pen)
  11. Spare SD cards (I'm taking 4 16GB cards & 6 8GB cards of my next trip, 20 days)
  12. An old Smartphone (with no SIMS card, but the camera and GPS still work fine)
  13. A polarizing filter
  14. Tone Reference cards

Monday, July 24, 2017

Day 6 :: Motion

Day 5 :: Motion

Today I was testing out my new camera wrist strap (I really don’t like or ever use the neck strap) for comfort and suitability when panning. I chose this image because it was the slowest and showed the best motion blur associated with panning on the ibis. I also liked the composition.


There where several other decent candidates, and a fair few blurred rejects. So the wrist strap was comfy but didn't guarantee panning success, which I still but down mainly to luck.

Day 5 :: Foggy Afternoon in Olinda

The theme for today’s Photos was together. But the inclement weather meant photographic opportunites where not together. Such is life

Day 4 :: Not Together

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Day 4 :: Quiet

Day 4 :: Quiet

This was fairly straight forward, a tripod, remote trigger and 2 second self timer. Just enjoying a leisurely saturday morning.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Day 3 :: Wet

Day 3 :: Wet

The photo I posted today for the week of daily photos was a HDR image created with Nik Software’s HDR Pro from a three photo bracketed set. _IGP1331lumI also selected the RAW version of the mid exposure (EV=0) and took it through the Window’s Beta Version of Lunimar, and it just two clicks (Bright Day Preset and then Accent AI Enhancer Filter) had almost the same image much faster.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Day 2 :: Playing

Day 2 Playing

The concept behind todays photo for this week of daily photos, was to be playing an older style or board/card game but with a little participant movement to make the playing aspect obvious. Getting the board/game in sharp focus but having moving hands was easy enough with a long exposure and the camera on a tripod but moving the hands during the exposure. I took a couple of images but decided I needed the hands to be recognizable not just totally blurry. I though a bracketed set and HDR processing might be perfect but it look that surreal unnatural (and a little sinister) effect HDR so often suffers from.


It was not hard to reset the three EV steps back to roughly the same exposure, then I used OnOne’s Layers module to blend the three images according to the amount I wanted to either highlight or blur the hands and then merge them down using normal Blend mode. A final run though  dynamic contrast and finally cropping.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Day 1 in a week of daily photos

Along with other listeners to the Family Photographer Podcast I am undertaking to post one photo a day on flickr.

Day 1 :: Finishing Up

My first photo beat the gun a little and was about my finishing up my current painting project. A semi Abstract Canvas painted in watercolour (That’s not an obvious thing to do by the way) Whereas the theme for the first day was beginning, oh well I got that wrong.

interestingnessEven before most other folks had has a chance to post something interesting (actually interestingness might be a better term) started to happen. The notification system (which I hate and keep trying to disable) started beeping and  most where from Instagram where I also posted a slightly different phot in three parts. Soon there where ten likes  Then I noticed a different beep and now some of the notification where from flickr people favouriting this image. The next 20 minutes saw them equally adding likes and favourites and even comments. I suspected I was on explorer on flickr and I was soon able to confirm this (see screen capture on the right). It didn’t take long to reach 1000 views and 40 favourites. Instagram activity soon fell away. My conclusion is fame last about half and hour on Instagram if your lucky but scoring interestingness in explorer on flickr with last a day or so.

The only remaining unanswered question is how many likes on Instagram equal a favourite on flikr?

Monday, July 10, 2017

My “Endless Summer” Sketching Kit

I've been progressively refining the gear I take on my endless summer travels, my sketching kit is now cut back to just the essentials.

I've had a little fun posting the contents of my stuff on It’s very sales oriented (with big green buy me buttons under each item, and I get no commission by the way) but it is fun, a nice and clean presentation and a FREE way for me to share a little of what I find useful, and I get to tell a brief story or two of why I like/use the stuff. My advice is read the stories and look though the kit, before you hit the green buttons.