Thursday, December 29, 2011

Blue with an Australian Summer Intensity

Summer is arriving at last, the hot weather part, and the sky has cleared to its intense blueness. This blue is not that easy to capture with a camera, especially a cameraphone. The individual exposure captured by HDRcameraThe problem being, for most of the day in Australia the clear sky will bleach out to white (being the highest intensity light (according to your light meter, when it compares the light to the foreground objects). There are some well established ways to get around this.
  1. Use a polarizing filter, works well but these filters can be expensive
  2. Expose for the sky, Point the camera high in the sky and half press the shutter release (this performs the exposure and auto-focus on most new digital cameras, set to green or Auto mode). Then pan down to your preferred picture view and press the shutter button all the way down. This keeps the exposure setting of the sky but on your new phone. Most probably you will have a nice sky but the foreground will be blocked out very dark, with little detail. Such dark silhouette can be dramatic but you probably wont be able to tell Arthur from Martha.
  3. Use the HDR process to extend the dynamic range of your photo. If you look back through my post you will find this requires taking several exposure of the same image and then post processing these (using special software)
2011-12-29_19-03-24_HDRThis photo series was taken at 3pm (2pm without daylight saving and about 7 hours before sunset) using the updated HDRCamera app on my android phone. The beauty of this application is that it automatically undertakes the post processing in your smart phone. Ok it does take a while, but the results are usually great, this image for example does captured that warmth and  intense of our summer sky nicely without making a silhouette of the gun tree.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thomas Hawk @ Googleplex

This is quiet a long video, but it is a talk by Thomas Hawk, who you probably already know of if you are on Flickr or Google+. If you don’t know of him he is worthwhile following. He has two massively ambitious projects, one to publish 1 million photos in his life time and the second to photograph Americas top 100 cities. This is a refreshing simple presentation of how one photographers works, how he makes time and uses it as efficiently as possible and still has a real life, There is also a fair bit about sharing photos on-line.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

PhotoProject :: Focussing on 50mm

One exercise often recommended to students of photography is to just use one lens, no zoom, and use the camera viewfinder to crop and compose your final image, Just using a single prime lens (a fixed focal length, which is most likely to be a 50mm lens for a DSLR cameras) is a good discipline because without the access to a zoom you are forced to think of your position relative to the subject and the light. The red  scooter in a grey city street made for a prefect interesting image, but I had to move in closer and lower. I also wanted to upload my photo to Google+ and have become a bit square crop oriented, with is very much the fashion there now (I assume because the square thumbnails look neat). So I just worried about the vertical position as I took the photo and I did trim it in Picasa before upload.

By the way I tried uploading this directly from the new Picasa (3.9) and ran into a lot of hassles.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Photographers Stocking Fillers

I had hoped to get this finished last week, but here is a list of smaller items that a photographer might appreciate in his or her Christmas stocking (I have tried to keep below $20/item)

Memory cards

One of the beauties of digital photography is you can take lots of picture without spending a fortune getting them processed. The limit really to how many pictures is the capacity and number of memory cards. If your photographer use SD cards, get him or her a few more and perhaps a card wallet to hold them. Right at the moment 2GB & 4GB cards are the best value and hold decent number of photos (even RAW) However check that the camera can take SDHC cards (HC is for High Capacity)

USB Memory Card Reader

You don’t need to buy the expensive ones, a simple all in one card reader with a USB plug can be stored in you camera bag. Then when you are on holiday or you are out and forgot your cameras upload cable you will have a backup.

Baby Tripods

There is a multiplicity of these from tiny desktop legs, that only support small compact cameras (not larger DSLRs), to the unusually named gorillapod, that has flexible legs, that can even be wrapped around a stable object but only a 325g lifting capacity.
One nifty small tripod-ish support that is a fraction dearer than my under $20 limit is the manfrotto pocket support. Its strong enough to support most grownup DSLR but small enough to leave on your camera.

Dust Cleaners

Notice I haven’t used the term lens cleansers, that is because most lenses these days are coated with specially formulates but thin anti glare and flare coatings. these layers are very easily rubbed off with even the softest cloth. Also it is a good idea not to use and liquid lens cleaners on your lens or even the LCD screen on the back of the camera. A soft micro-fibre cloth, not a paper tissue which will leave troublesome fibres everywhere, is generally all that is required to keep your camera body clean. An old fashion brush and blower are also useful.
Dust on the cameras sensor is a different matter and the camera owner should consult his/her camera manual.

Gift Vouchers

Most good camera stores have gift vouchers covering a wide range of items, from actual photography demonstrations and lessons, book to discount prints and photobooks. It seems such voucher begin at around $15 and can run into the $100s (it could buy a camera) So don’t get carried away keep the vouchers simple when giving them as the stocking filler.

Hot Shoe Triple Axis Spirit Level.

This is a pretty specific bit of gear but very useful for anyone who is keen on multi-image stitched panorama. Haven’t found an Australian supplier yet, but included it in the list in case you spot it a a camera shop.

PhotoProject :: Urban Abstract

Urban Abstract, originally uploaded by imageo.
Taken om my Android cameraphone using the HDRCamera app. This was directly uploaded to flickr from my phone and then blogged from flickr.

There are pictures waiting to be taken everywhere. Having a camera in your phone is a great way to start capturing more of them

New lights in the lightbox

The Google+ lightbox was already nice, but it has been imp-roved. The lightbox is the area you go into when you click on and are viewing a photos. Google’s lightbox is black, and there are a lot of folk who prefer that (eg Lightroom users) and others that hate it. In theory the black borders will give photos a “lift ( according to the block border enthusiasts it apparently boos the intensity of colours and the luminosity of the light, I think these is an optical illusions in the viewer). The problem them in things written in the black boarder can be very hard to read, so google+ has white boxes into which comments etc are placed. It is a nice slick update and very simple to pick up and use.
Have fun tagging your christmas snaps or adding santa hats and antlers (watch the video carefull and you will see how to do that)

Friday, December 16, 2011

There is always someone

Have you noticed that just as you set up a shot and press the button someone is likely to 2011-12-15_10-40-06_HDRwander across your photo and cast an awkward shadow of even block out part of your subject? For conventional HDRi\ this can be a disaster, or a lot of cropping. These where taken with my android phone using HDR Camera, which has a “feature” that it uses the first photo as a reference and other items in a single frame only will be removed, rather than included as a ghost. Not sure how its done but it does take some stress away.
I took this photo series of a decorated CFA van to test a theory I have that HDRi is a good technique for the harsh Australian summer midday sun. With a single exposure they best I would have expected was a bleached out sky and the silhouette of the white van (blown out with no detail) against the background trees dark in shadow.
PS: If you want to get the “official” CFA/DSE Bush Fire warnings and alerts on your smartphone for this sumer visit this link.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Bundle of Goodies from Google

Google has its update to Picasa (version 3.9) ready for download, but they are not pushing it out to existing Picasa users just yet. Like a lot of their other recent releases it is very Google+centric. imageOffering easier ways to upload to Google+ (with an oversized green share button on the photo tray) including name tags of your Google+ Circles. The actual details of this name tag sharing is a bit more complex than I need to discuss here, but the essence is you tag your photo in face recognition with someone in your Google+ Circle or even just has an email address associated with them, then they automatically show up in the share box for that photo in Picasa web Album (even though that may be otherwise private). In other words if they are in your photo they will be able to see it (but they are not notified). This is a sensible default in an otherwise very public social network centric places that the web seems to becoming. Read more detail here.

The BIG difference with Picasa 3.8 is the link to Web Albums is now called Google+Photos, and that is exactly what it is, if you are already signed up to Google+. If not you with see an offer to join Google+ but don’t panic you don’t have to join. Sharing via Google+ dialogue screenThe conventional Picasa web album view lives on (it and Google+photo are just different ways to view the same on-line photos) and you still have the 2GB of free space. Actually if you join Google+ you may find your free space climbs again because they then don’t count small images and short videos.

If you have become interested in Picasa on your PC (or MAC) because you have started looking under the bonnet of Google+Photo. You will appreciate this share to Google+ button because it works a lot like the share feature in the Google+ app on your smart phone. Only in this case the photos can be shared “directly” from your computer, with a few option that you may choose to define but most of the information is taken from the image itself. This type of effortless transfer is what “cloud” computing promised long ago, but is only just getting around to deliver.

If your an existing Picasa user don’t worry to much about the changes, they are really just a bit or a “clean up” to the screen real estate and  the user experience with be pretty much as you are used to be. One change that worried me at first was the size of the share button on the photo tray left not enough room for the button I had grow to love.

Before 3.8

photo tray buttons

Now 3.9

picasa buttons Capture

picasa configure Capture Not to worry the configure button tab lets you bring back the “one click” buttons you like. Ok they are not exactly single click button but they do give single click access to wizards that take you through the more common processes  If you haven’t used them take the opportunity to try them out when investigating Picasa 3.9.

Possible you have already seen or heard rumors of the plethora of new editing effects. Don’t get too excited they are mainly “fun” filters (like the fun effects in Picnik or Befunky). When you click on a single photo you still get the same editor dialogue on the left hand side. The difference you will notice is the tabs at the top of this dialogue area, there are now 5 tabs and they have icons rather than text. The first three are as before, the last two are are sub-titled more fun effects and even more fun effect, which is what they are, the fun end of town! Ideal for fun on Facebook, Twitter and other distractions

picasa more fun Capture picasa even more fun Capture

There is one new edit features that I think will appear to the more purist end of the photography spectrum, ok the ones that have been exposed to Photoshop or more particularly Lightroom. Its side by side editing (finally!) It not only lets you have the before and after images side by side, you can also compare different photos and side by side can be swapped to above and below. You access this feature from the little  A A or A B boxes above the image, in a single photo display.

Side by Side View during editing

Download Picasa 3.9 now (remember its free), don’t wait for the roll out, you won’t regret it.

HINT: One final recommendation if you have bought anyone a camera for Christmas, buy them an extra memory card. You can even put the download of the Picasa 3.9 installer on the card (as an added bonus). I’m sure they will find it will be nicer software than is bundle with the camera anyway.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Birds of Kalista (revisted)

IMGP9966 IMGP9952 IMGP9961
There have been some elaborate changes to the bird feeding at grants picnic ground at Kalista, Whilst it is undoubtedly been carried out in the interest of keeping the wild birds healthy it does seem a little heavy handed.
Visitors must purchase a token from ‘Grants on Sherbrooke’ kiosk to enable them to enter the fenced Bird Feeding area and obtain a measured amount of seed to be offered to the wild birds. Visitors are not permitted to bring in their own seed nor offer seed or other food items to birds outside of the Bird Feeding Area.
There are no other areas within the Dandenong Ranges National Park where seed can be offered to native birds.
If you have just come to photograph the birds their are plenty still hanging around, looking for a feed..

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Have you seen this man?

PhotoFit - The Open University I have just had a bit of fun with a chrome app called OU PhotoFit Me, its put out by the Open University in the UK, as a promotion for enrolment in their Psychology & Social Science courses  This is clever marketing.

You wouldn't recognize me from my PhotoFit but it was fun trying to get some resemblance. I guess I don’t look in the mirror enough and the body parts are definitely from the young and beautiful people. So perhaps this is the “I wish” Photo Fit.

They also have a few suggested celebrities you should try out for a Famous Face Fit, I’m sure you will be able to do better than the ones posted so far. Have a play in the app below.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Passing Tram

How autostitch manages the collage
How Autostitch handled
the moving collage
I have my Pentax Camera Back (with card reader repaired) but it was a very humid overcast day in the city and the only thing around was a passing tram and traffic. So I  just clicked off a number of photos as I walk north and the tram headed south. May not look much but I'm happy everything works, with the camera not the collage Now to get Back to taking some serious photography.

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Icy Christmas Decorations in Summer

2011-11-27_16-10-23_HDR  2011-11-27_16-11-46_HDR
The Glen Shopping Center at Glen Waverley has a wonderful glass dome and vaulted glass roof, letting in beautiful natural light to the otherwise artificial temple to the gods of everything commercial. The Juxtaposition of stylized snow flakes against a rich blue summer sky is an irony I appreciate. Its a pity more Christmas shoppers don’t look up.
thy glen pano-1 2011-11-27

Friday, November 25, 2011

Self Reference Sketches

A little bit of self indulgent self reference. Using my own sketching gear and paints to sketch my own sketching gear and paints.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Still elegant

2011-11-23_13-28-46_HDR This is the back door of the Royal Exhibition Building. This grand old lady, was only meant to be a temporary structure for the “great” Melbourne international Exhibition in 1880, Victoria was still an English colony back then, with newly acquired wealth thanks to the Gold Rush. The building has survived a few partial demolitions and fires, and has now passed into the hands of the Victorian museum and is also now  a listed World Heritage site. She still hold exhibitions and has had many other uses including the opening of the first Australian Parliament (just the opening!) , a sports venue during the 1956 Olympics and as the main Matriculation examination hall (which I remember all to well) during the 56s 60s & 70s and still used by Melbourne Uni and RMIT for exams (also remember these). Today her biggest event is the Melbourne International flower and garden show.

The stark/strong lighting of the Australian summer gives me another good test for HDR camera on my android phone. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Getting in very close

Whilst this fish has featured prominently in my rock art, this is the first time I had seen a real version (aka a fossil in a mueseun collection). The lighting was very low and the specimen small but I thought HDR Camera on my android phone might be ok,

And it was. You would think he was over 70 million years old?

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wide but weird?

I’m still without my DSLR, and missing it. Yet I have been experimenting with my android camera phone, and more specifically the update to Camera Advance Lite which is now called ProCapture, and I’m just trying out the free version. Today I saw I nice set of clouds and their refelections and a group of ducks leaving v trails across the reflections. Just begging for a nice wide panoramic image. I knew that ProCapture claims to offer both a wide shot mode, that utomatically links together 3 photos to produce a high resolution wide image. A little more about the High resolution claim later
When you set ProCapture in Wide shot mode (on the upper mode tool) it lets you take three photos (at your own pace). These p[hotos like others taken with ProCapture seemed well exposed (see collage above) then the phone’s screen  blanks and you see the processing and the normal spiraling indicator. this ran so long my phone shutdown the screen and every after refresshing this it took what seemed like a few minutes. The resulting image (see below) it was only a thin strip across the phone but looks out at that sized.
I’d made the classic mistake when hand holding the phone (what else was I to do?) at a title between shots to the panorama assumes an titled horizon. I’ve added the black edge so I could show how much I had to straighten the image by.
Once loaded onto my computer and reviewed at higher resolution I discovered there where some amazing difference between the camera stitched image and the original photos. Where are the duck’s  V traces in the water for example. Has the vertical scale been compressed? why is so much of the foreground missing? This so called high resolution composite image is actually smaller that the individual photos! This lower resolution of the in phone processed panoramics is a disappointment in most places I have found it (eg see my storm panorama post)
To make sure these are not just stitching artifacts I also stitche the original images with Autostitch (lower image below). It looks fine just Like I expected.
Stitched in Camera with ProCaptureStitched using Autostitch later on computer
Clearly it is worth waiting to do an autostitch back on the computer. from the point of view of image quality. I discovered there are other reasons to be careful when using the wide shoot and panorama setting, over and above the length of time required to process the stitching in camera
WARNING: Don’t forget to reset the camera mode back to Normal, otherwise to might find your next three shoots seem to work, only to find the phones disappears in the processing mode and after a long delay announce no match could be found. Fair enough. The bit that isn’t fair is your three photos will be gone!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The internet of things

I heard about an interesting project on a recent science show podcast.  Its a project between several UK universities and based on open source software and existing technologies that enables things (objects) to become know and have their own presence on the internet. At the simplest level each object gets an entry in the the internet of things, a website specifically created for this project, and gets issues its own QR code. A human (eg you) has to do this. There are also phones app for the iphone and android that make your phone into one of these QR tags readers. So when you happen upon one of these tagged objects you can scan it and read about out it, leave comments or even like it. Then depending on how its entry is configure it might tweet that you a have visited, share your comment or update its facebook status. Suddenly things can have their own form of memory and history in our cyberworld. Sound far fetched? No its very real and very simple.