Monday, October 31, 2011


IMAG0375 I was down Ricketts Point, Beaumaris on the bay south of Melbourne. and spotted a group of black swans. I hadn’t many along the coast for the past few years and this is the second group I have seen this month. I went to get my DSLR camera and the battery was flat (sad face) but I did have my android phone and as is my preference at the moment I took at HDR camera shot (actually its three shots)

collage of original images

As is typical taking such a series with a moving subject (the sea gulls, the waves and even the swans themselves) I was expecting ghosting. However looking at the final result the waves and seagulls and swan on the right are all nice and sharp and just as they where in the first photo. Even though Almalence, the creators of the HDR camera app, claim the correct handling of moving objects and de-ghosting I do find this pretty amazing.

final HDR Photo

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Going Wide Angle on a Cameraphone


For PhotoFriday‘s Topic Wide Angle

I’m sure something like this must have has already been tried. Here I have used 4 photos taken on my android cameraphone, stitched them with Microsoft Research's ICE software and uploaded the resulting image to Microsoft Research's Photosythn. Zoom in with your mouse and look around, not bad resolution for a cameraphone. The big drawback in this image however is the horizon is a very wobbly line.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Is Seeing Believing?

This video is from a paper being given at SIGgraph Asia 2011 by  Kevin Karsch, Varsha Hedau, David Forsyth, Derek Hoiem called Rendering Synthetic Objects into Legacy Photographs.

Unlike the photoshopping and fiddling with blemish stuff that is giving photo manipulation such a dubiously bad reputation, some of the work with augmented reality and object rendering is really based on sound understanding of the theory.  In Kevin’s case above clearly the process is following the source of light and shadows in a truly natural way. I am all for this type of technical improvement but we may have to tolerate more public scepticism of good “photographic” methods as this and similar techniques become tools of the less ethical fakers.

By the way, incorrect shadows and lighting on a subject are the easiest way to detect shoddy photoshoped heads on the wrong bodies etc. Now it is our job, as honest photographers to be open with the methods we apply (and I’m certain the above methods have some very great legitimate application), whilst at the same time helping to detect and expose the low-lives who are out to deceive us?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Night & Day

By Night By Day

imageThese are taken at roughly the same place in the waterloo district of Amsterdam. They are examples of photos I have geotagged well after I took them. I added the geotags in Picasa using Geo-tag in Google Earth button (blue globe down on the far bottom right). I then loaded these into Flickr to check if Yahoo Maps is improving, and for Amsterdam, at least there seems to be good comparison now.

The one sour note was I could not figure out how to share multiple images with the blogger share button now in flickr. Seems you have to do one photo at a time.b So it was over to the share button in flickr and grab the html code, then do a little tweaking of the image size in microsoft’s  live writer

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Little but with a Big Bite


For PhotoFriday‘s Topic little

The Australian Bull Ant may look little but it packs a mighty bite and is also very strong (here it is uprooting a dead grass looking for the succulent root). It is widely discussed, (it may be an urban myth) that australian aboriginals still use the bull ant’s powerful nippers as a form of bush suture. The hold the ants so they bite on both side of a deep flesh wound and then break off the body leaving the head firmly attached. A dozen or so ants and you have very satisfactory stitches. (ouch! think I’d rather wait for the flying doctor)

Someone asked me earlier in the week which was my favourite lens and they where surprise when I pointed to my Sigma DL Macro 70-300mm zoom. This was used to take the above photo, I just slide the switch on the barrel to macro and it let me get “close” but at the same time “safely” about 2m away. I have seen a lot of disdain and tut-tuts in some of the camera, press, clubs and podcasts for sigma lens, but I reckon they are good value for money and seem to survive my “field” treatment, ok except the ones with plastic mounts)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

1+ Google PlusOne Button and should you use it?

You are sure to have noticed the plus one buttons popping up all over the place on the web (and this blog). This is a google initiative to take back a little of the hype from the like button on facebook. It is really a crowd sourcing exercise that will give a little extra ways in which google can refine search results. At the simplest level when you click on the 1+ button you are publically recommended that item across the web.

The real benefit of these 1+ recommendation will be for those in google+, because google then makes your recommendation highly visible to your family and friends and you see theirs recommendations. In other words it is a simple way to share with your circle of friend and things you see that look cool. From a privacy prespective that sharing doesn’t extend out side those your circles.Unlike the facebook like button, which supposedly just puts your likes on your profile, via your news feed, but also less well known is it then acts as if it owns your likes and on-sells them to others such as Bing searches.
Who actually owns and has the right to use what you put on the social web is a really grey area. I would be interested in hearing comments from others on privacy risks and social network tools?

Monday, October 17, 2011


These two photos are in fact taken with a few meters of each other, However they do illustrate two very different outcomes facing modern agriculture. On the right is the image of drought and slt being drawn to the surface, The left shows able water but the waterway is being choked with algal and opportunist growth, related to excessive nutrients in the run off.
It never rains but it pours.
Often opposites make an interesting photo pair.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Every camera has FREE Digital Zoom

image The simple feature found in almost all image processing software normally called cropping, givens every camera owner access to a digital zoom. Like the much maligned in camera digital zoom feature there are limits. If you zoom in too far your image becomes blocky, noisy and fuzzy, The digital camera will probably have an interpolation built into it6s functions that tries to smooth out and sharpen the image as you zoom in. It will also possibly resize the interpolated output. Another common image processing tool sharpen might help extend the zoom range just a little on your cropped image. However don’t go overboard with sharpening (it can introduce unfortunate edge effects at contrast boundaries in the image)
So here is a recent example, I was taking a wide multi-image panoramic view, with my normal lens 50mm (75mm equivalent to a 35mm) Then I notice some swan flying past in formation and with no time to change lenses I just snapped an image (of them way in the distance, see image above). I then cropped this in picasa and added just a slight tweak of sharpening. The result is not satisfactory to blow up but looks fine at 15 by 10cm (6” by 4”) the standard photo processing snap shot size

Friday, October 14, 2011

PhotoProject :: Skyscapes


The clouds this afternoon where dramatic, but on a much larger scale than a normal photo  captures. An obvious application for multi-image stitched panorama, This time I have used the panorama stitched within Windows Live Photo Gallery, rather than my favourite autostich.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Some Interesting android apps for smartphones with cameras

One interesting, and seeming not often discussed, feature of smartphones with cameras is that you are not really just limited to the capabilities of the camera application it was shipped with. You can easily download and run other apps (applications) that will either replace the camera application altogether, give you different controls or allow you to tweak the photos in phone, Here is a selection of free apps that I have found to be worthwhile downloads.

Alternate Cameras

HDR Camera

Camera Advance Lite

Little Photo

Camera Fun Free
You’ll be amazed at the quality of images you can get out of this. It takes 3 exposures and uses HDRi techniques to extend dynamic range.
The free version has ad banners
This adds some extra features to your camera and has some nice OS (On Screen Aids) to help you take better photos. Simple camera with a timer, and a lots of special effect and edit features It does photo effects as you take the photo, a lot of fun. There is a paid version that give you more effects

In-Phone Photo Editors

Adobe Photoshop Express

Photo Effects PhotoFunia


Simple easy to use basic editing options, a few special effects from Adobe
(Photoshop & Lightroom folk)
Claims to turn your photos into art with amazing photo effects, similar to Instagram Put your face on billboards, in art galleries, magazines. Lots of Fun. Needs web access The retro finishes and filters are well done and fun. from Autodesk (autocad folk)

I assume a lot of these apps will also be available from the Iphone app store, I have only tested them on an android (2.2.1) phone.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Towards a light portable (watercolour) easel

Whilst this is not exactly a photographic topic, I am using my camera tripod(s). I have made an easel attachment for a tripod before, alas it is a heavy thing  The simple tilted table design of David Hurrell inspired me to revisit the idea of have my drawing board being able to attach to my camera tripod. I actually have two, one is lighter weight and fits in my case when travelling, and is small enough to carry all day. The second is heavier and sturdier and tends to live closer to home or my car, but is a really great tripod, with movie style damped panning.

Easel Mark I

IMGP8933This is simply a copy of David’s idea. All you need is a suitable sized nut, that fits your tripod adaptors screw. The nut I used cost just 6 cents. I glued this onto the back of a piece of 3mm thick craft wood that I use as a portable drawing board. Voila! Instant easel.

I soon discovered I need a couple of craft wood pads (also 3mm and slightly thicker that the bolt) also glued on beside the nut to let me firmly attach the adaptor to the board. Without these on the board tended to slew a round a little not matter how tight I screwed it down. Also most such adaptors have a small spring loaded pin below the screw thread. So I drilled a small hole to match this location on my lower pad. (Both my tripods have small detachable adaptors that screw onto your camera then there is a quick release mechanism that attaches this to the tripod head)

The result is great I now have a light weight easel that is easy to carry and quick to set up

IMGP8931 IMGP8934

Easel Mark II

scan0002 The next step was dreaming of a way to attached my palette and dipping water jar on the side. I even got as far as sketching up a a “super” drawing board with and old paint palette pivoted underneath, so it could swing out as you painted. Unfortunately I spotted one serious design flaw before I tried to make it.  I had made up a wider drawing board I sometimes used on windy days which held both my sketch book and portable paint palette with normal bulldog clips. The problem I had with this was gravity, as I IMGP8928tilted the board  I ran the risk of any liquid in the paint palette running out (and potentially across my painting). This was  relatively easily fixed on my handheld board by using the hinged nature of the portable palette and putting a bit blob of blu-tack under the lower palette tray to keep it roughly horizontal and just doing my wash mixes in this lower tray.

The solution really requires the palette (and anything else) to bePortable Easle independent of the drawing/painting surface. realising that meant I look for an independent way to attach these to the tripod, Most tripods that can have their heads raise and lowered have a crank mechanism that runs inside a tube at the top of the tripod. A small U-bolt (normally sold as a way to attach things like TV antenna to a pipe, or as a method to secure off a loop in wire rope) can easily be used here to attach a simple arm on which the palette can be mounted. My prototype used a spare bit of wood that in retrospect is a little heavy. However the new multi-function easel works like a charm. By the way the U-bolt at approx $4.00 is a little more expensive than the nut.

IMGP8944 So where to now.? I think the next obvious improvement is to make the arm out of extruded aluminium, making sure that it also fits with my tripod carry bag. Also I will change the conventional nuts to wing nuts (which are much easier to tighter by hand).

On my prototype i have already found a conventional picture hook is a great way to attached a small jar of water (not shown) and a Velcro hooks strip on the arm and corresponding Velcro loop dots on small containers, is a neat flexible way to hold other small jars or containers within easy reach.

I also have a small folding stool that is easy to attach to my camera/art backpack. So Everything is nicely portable and a delight to use.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Google+, some extra thoughts

I may have been a little hasty recommending you go exploring Google+ circles looking for photographers. What will probably happen is you will be overwhelmed with glary self promotion and hype (while the look at me celebrities fight it out for most views or +1 likes. I found it just way too much information and distracting. So I’m now going to suggest you approach circles one follow at a time, but start with someone that might have something to say that interests you. My pick in from my first cacophony, of too many too follow, was Trey Ratcliff, who is both an excellent  travel photographer and knows how to discuss his craft in an engaging way (see also his website stuck in customs) as well as posting his current photo projects, his Google+ post range from personal yarns to almost philosophic ponderings and more importantly he runs regular photo hangouts on Google+. I suggest he is a good guide to things photographic on Google+. As you find your way around first follow others that interest you, make comments and perhaps later friend them.

It is the Google+ app (I’ve only tried out the Android version) and specifically the instant photo upload that I think will give Google+ its greatest traction with new users. It works really seamlessly and most importantly doesn’t share your photo with My first Google+ instant uploadthe world (unless you specifically choose to do so). I have my phone set so it only connects to the internet when I am connected to WiFi (so I avoid the high costs of uploading photos incurs on GSM). One missing feature that does surprise me is in editing, There is no option to run Picnik (since Google now own Picnik) or even swap across to Picasa web and run Picnik there?

Perhaps even better might be to have picnic as an add in to Google+ on the phone or as an android app of its own. I’m not the first to notice this by the way.

Friday, October 07, 2011

PhotoFriday :: Slick on legs

For PhotoFriday‘s Topic Slick

This soldier crab is "collecting" a diatom bloom in salt foam, and wraping it around  his body. He then carries this some distance and  buries in the mudflat (presumably as a future food store). Watching thousands of these bubble encrusted crabs meandering across the mudflats is an amazing sight,  but it only occurs under unusual conditions, there needs to be an algal bloom of the diatoms with enough wind to whip some salt foam and blow this salty algal dinner onto the shore.
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Monday, October 03, 2011