Saturday, December 29, 2012

INSIVITY (INSane INSpiration & creatIVITY)

I had pulled back a lot from social media aspect of my photography. The early days of groups on flickr and photo communities where great place to see the work of others and get inspired and they where dominated by SHARING, ideas, photographic themes and challenges. However the rise of Twitter (twitpics etc), Facebook Google+ and Instagram turned the on-line photostreams into a LOOK AT ME self indulgence between CELBRITY LOOK A LIKE (ok a lot of them may have been the celebrities without airbrushing) and COPYCAT images (not to mention those cat pictures). Creativity and originality were flooded away and on any given day most photos just looked the same. Not only did I stop commenting and contributing I stopped looking.

Now I do know that all the extra camera power in smart phones, cool apps and all those places to post should give the creative types more to work with and I really expected to see them flourish, not get overwhelmed. The rouble is finding them. In Misho Baranovic’s instagram workshop, he suggested changing those you follow, just one of two at a time, and look at those they follow till and fllows those with things you like, and so on as was a better strategy than just consuming what is served up. So I started my journey on flickr and google+ just choose one new follower/circle each week. In that period +colby brown one of the godfather of android/photography on google+ started the android photography community which immediately grabbed traction with those doing good work.  There are other communites on google+ and flickr is looking a little less tired.  So where to from now. insivit is hopefully a place that will attract and promote the creative, all artist do need inspiration without the copycat stampedes. It does include obvious sponsorship and special offers tailored around the work on display, but to me that is the right way to fund projects like this. To celebrate their opening, and get you to subscribe to their newsletter or promote them on social media they are giving away the nifty new wacom interactive pen displays.(I could  not see any small print that says open to US citizens only)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Into the Shadows

IMGP8935The summer sun came out after a cloudy morning and things began to heat up. This cockatoo found a nice cool spot in the dappled shade with a light breeze to keep cool. Great for the cockatoo but a challenge to photograph.

Auto exposure  Exposed for the shadows  lightroom's adjustment brush mask

On automatic the light meter, has correctly exposed the sky but left the bird and foliage very dark and essentially in silhouette. Whereas a spot metering on the dappled shadows on the cockatoos white feathers as caused the sky to be blown out. So I took a bracketed exposure set, recording both RAW and jpeg versions. Then I selected the best looking exposure and took the RAW file into Lightroom and rather than adjust the whole image I used the adjustment brush in the development module to just lighten the shadows and increase the clarity of the cockatoo and branch. Not quiet dodge & burn but similar results.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Friday, December 21, 2012

Orange Ibis


IMG_8240-001Right on sunset a flock of Ibis [Threskiornis molucca],flew by, and turned orange! Something you don’t often see. Rather than stick around for more photos or fly a bit closer so I could get a better view they disappeared as quickly as they arrived, anxious to find their accommodation for the night.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

PhotoProject :: towards an arty deconstruction


I have ben experimenting with the idea of deconstructing photos into something built up like an artist might construct a painting and how artists tackle colour is in general quiet different to the way a camera records it. The artist uses tone to establish a realistic 3D representation on the canvas, well that’s the way most artist have tackled it from the renaissances onwards. They first develop a monochrome underpaintings, not unlike a black and white photos, and then added colours in glazes and washes. The camera collects the intensity of the light and its wavelength at the same time, further it is the reflected light from the subject, not the colour of the object itself. Moreover artists have developed a lot of tricks with colour harmony, warm versus cool colours, shadow tints and how they can and can’t be mixed to make sure the results more pleasing to the eye. Reflected light knows nothing of these intricacies, and just delivers colour casts and all (which is why white balance is so important) Frequently traditional paintings will actually only have a few colours, but skillfully mixed and tinted. So I have been experimenting in ways to reduce IMGP8513the number of colour, perhaps at the same time enrich them to create a pleasing image. In the image above, which is based on a very simple shot of the nearby park, on the right. I used some filtering and post processing in Photoshop Elements, first I did a couple of colour (hue) shifts just in the shadow tones, one shift from the deep greens to yellow greens and the other from a darker shadow tone to a mauve/purple. I then used the plastic wrap artist filter to highlight the texture (give the surface a reflected 3d look).

Ok, Is it art? …or even close.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Last Minute Christmas Gifts for Your Photo Tragic

alvin photo christmasSome folk are hard to buy gifts for, none more so than the keen photographer. So here are a few suggestions for gifts, ranging from stocking fillers up to something special. The links here are generally to Australian sites, but a google search should give you the equivalent suppliers/websites in your area.

Stocking fillers

Most photographer could do with more Memory Cards, most cameras used SD cards, and 4 GigaBytes is a popular size and can probably be picked up for just under $10. It is worthwhile checking on which cards your photographer uses, some older cameras won’t be able to use the HC (higher capacity) cards and a lot of high end camera still use compact flash cards. If your special photographer already a few cards they might appreciate a card wallet.

USB Flash Memory Keys, whilst they probably won’t connect to any camera they are very handy in any camera bag. They can act as temporary photo backup storage, or a more universal way to share photos around. I have found carrying a few photographically oriented portable app around on a USB key in my camera bag has been a great travel resource. The Platform is a free download that lets your photographer carry all their favorite apps on a portable device or cloud drive and use them on any PC.

Not all computers have SD or compact flash slots so a Multi-card reader can be very handy in any camera bag. Alternatively most cameras can be uploaded via a cable (normally an USB cable), probably an appropriate cable will be supplied with the camera, but self retracting or a colorful versions of these cables can make a harder to loose addition to your photographer’s kit (but be careful to check the type of cable required).

Smartphone lens attachments, have till now largely focused on iPhone compatibility but the cute suction cup Jelly lenses will fit most smartphones and come in a variety of “fun” effect like kaleidoscope, star bust and even wide angle. Creative types are most likely to have fun with the special effect lenses, while the more serious types might prefer a wide angle or macro lens, but don’t expect them to produce “high spec” photos, they are for fun.

VIP and member Club Cards, that offer ongoing discounts, are often good value. For example PhotoXpert now trade out of the old rabbit stores in most locations, and your photographer will have the opportunity to post on-line of via an in-store kiosk. waiting a day or so for processing also help lower the price of prints even more

You can also see my stocking filler list from last year for a couple of extra ideas. The gifts get more expensive from here on.

May Seem Boring but Good Gifts

If your camera tragic has a fancy camera, ask if they have a spare battery (they are not often supplied). This may not sound an exciting gift but once given there will be undoubted be many times when your gift is fondly remembered. Dead batteries and filling the memory card are the two most common reasons for missing that great photo opportunity. Digital cameras can be very hard on batteries (its mainly the LCD screen that draw a lot of power) and thus they usually have special Ni-Lithium batteries and worse they are usually all different for different model camera so get all the details (best to make note of what on the back of the existing battery, don’t just trust the camera shops catalogue)

Lens caps are easy to loose, and there are a lot of replacement caps around but the snap-on type that can be taken off by pinching in the middle (Nikon style) or outside are definitely the easiest access and use. Unfortunately they only seem to come in black and are just as easy to loose. There are also some very colorful version that may be easier to find.

Something different

USB Pocket Projector, there are some amazing tiny projectors around that plug into a USB port and they generally only have a 640n by 480 pixel resolution but this is fine for a good YouTube video and simple presentation of “family” or small group slide shows and wont take up much room in your laptop bag or backpack.If you are unsure about their capability ask for a demo


Stylus and pen tablets are not as popular as they should be. Editing images on an iphone, or ipad mini is a bit tedious if you have normal sized fingers and a simple stylus can make all the difference. For work on a PC I have a wacom bamboo tablet that operate in both a touch and pen mode and it is unbelievable good when you start working with an adjustment brush, localized corrections and touch ups,  A word of warning, I may already be inclined to work that way as I sketch a lot. but some folk that have only every used the mouse can find using a pen tablet to interact with a computer very daunting. All you need to do is hide their mouse for a day or two and they will soon convert.


When it comes to software, the first thing people discuss is Adobe Photoshop. So I need to warn you the CS5 or CS6 version around now are very VERY expensive, have a VERY LONG learning curves and have lots of features that too few people use. In the hands of an expert they can do amazing things BUT photoshop seem to frustrate most folk. That is why there are so many books on learning photoshop, it a hard slog. So look at these alternative first

Photoshop elements is a cut down version of its bigger brother, with most of the basic features. a much shorter learning curves and an attractive price. It is the right place to start when you are new to photo post processing.



Most keen photographers may already have Lightroom. also from adobe and now included with the photoshop family, but if they don’t already have it Lightroom would be a great gift. It doesn’t have a long learning curve, of Photoshop CS6, the editing of RAW files is easy and quick and there is a lot else to like, especially that it is non-destructive (it always keeps the unaltered originals and just stores the post-processes you apply in its database) so it wont cause any grief.


AfterShot Pro is a lot like Lightroom, including the non-destructive style, maybe a little simpler to pick up, but has the powerful RAW processing tools, including noise ninja. I use Lightroom and am very happy with that but I was impressed with a demo of AfterShot and I like other corel products I use.. It’s a bit cheaper than Lightroom in Oz



The Knowledge

Perhaps the greatest gift to any photographer is the knowledge to take better photos, and this takes time to learn and practice to perfect. There are photobooks a plenty, but be warned a lot of them go tediously through Photoshop features and there is probably a new one for each version update (so I would avoid those) but some research into a local photo course, given by a well know photographer, through Tafe, a camera store or even on-line can make very memorable gifts.

What Not to Buy

Here are some things that it is better to let a photographer choose for him or herself, new cameras, tripods, cameras bags (yes camera bags can be a very personal thing) and lenses. First there is such a variety of gear and features, but more important your photographer probably has a particular preference/style and so camera shop gift cards are a better alternative to actual equipment here. Photo apps for smartphones are also probably best left to the photographers own personal choices (and both apple iTunes store and Google Play offer gift cards).

Friday, December 14, 2012

To upgrade OR not?

imageIt seems almost everyday my android is updating some app. Sometimes that has not been for the better (eg Google+), Windows and Java seem to want to upgrade monthly, even weekly at some times. Usually as a principal I like o keep at least one computer as up to date as possible, and its usually the computer I am using most. Most software suppliers these days provide “free” updates will you are within the same major version number but charge as you upgrade from one main version to the next, which is a reasonable approach. Some automatically notify you when an update is available, and prompt you to upgrade. For instance today lightroom has let me know version 4.3 is available. However other than “unspecified” bug fixes I can not see any feature I need. So should I even upgrade? Well, no suspense I will update, I like my software to be as up to date as possible.

The dark side of this automatic upgrading is that occasional an updated driver (or ”lack of” the appropriate updated driver on your machine) will cause something that was working to stop working and frustration set in, One way to minimize the likelihood of this is your have access to more than one computer is to Try the updates out on you secondary machines for a couple of days then upgrade your “production” machine. A second option is to wait a few days and look of the user forums for the software, problems usually surface pretty fast on forums. The final option if only update if you think its really necessary (you’ll be safe in the knowledge that what you have works, you might however miss out on faster processing, fantastic new features or just a general improvement if how things work.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Christmas beetle in HDR

It must be getting close to Christmas, last night there were swarms of Christmas beetles [Anoplognathus] around every light. Up close & personal
HDRi treatment of a set of bracketed macro photos, something I have not tried before. (HINT a tripod is essential, to overcome ghosting and alignment issues). Here I am using Picturenaut's Adaptive Logarithmic (aka Drago) tone mapping which uses a smooth logarithmic roll-off for dynamic range compression of the highlights and the shadows. So as to preserve the colurs in both highlights and shadows.
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Thursday, December 06, 2012

PhotoProject :: Tiny Watery Planets

Backlit wavesToday was a light off-shore breeze and clear sky with an incoming tide late in the afternoon. I knew these where the perfect conditions to get some good images of backlit waves. The conditions where a little overcast so the rich turquoise and blues typical of late summer didn’t happen.  However I took a lot of photos!

Anyway I then had some fun turning them into little planets, polar transformed circular photos. There are a few communities of photo post processors that are dedicated to this round images and some are very precious about what makes a true “tiny planet”, and there are a few good on-line tutorials of how to do it in photoshop, even iphone and android apps, to do the polar transformations. All this doesn’t interest me that much what I wanted to do was emphasis the abstract compositional aspect of circular format. So it was back to basics. I have used a nifty transformation program called before, and it has a suitable polar tranform function, called cimageylindrical mirror. This is based on a transform that was used my MC Escher, and is designed such that you can put a cylindrical mirror in the center (which is why it asks for a mirror radius) and then when you look at the image reflected in the mirror you will see a normal picture (ok you have to invert it and work out how far around the mirror it needs to be wrapped). To create a full circle I have used 1 pixel as the radius (zero doesn’t work) and wrap (the angular size) the image around 359 digress (it doesn’t take 360 either). This left me was a small white sliver segment, and I used corel-photo paint cloning tool to heal that and also rotate the image into a pleasant compositional position. So here are three tiny watery planets (they will look best a little larger so don’t be afraid to click on them)
water planet 1-001 water planet 2-001 water planet 3-001

find your photos, find your camera

I’m sure you have heard the stories about stolen camera and phones being traced by photos posted on facebook or twitter. They all have the element of a luck discovery in their stories, something that might be very hard to rely on when its your camera that has gone missing. Now there is a service called stolencamerafinder, which tackles the problem in a little more analytical fashion. They look for the embedded serial number of your camera within the EXIF metadata header of jpeg files. Unfortunately cameraphone generally don’t embed a unique serial number and are thus not supported (but I did notice one phone in their support list is the IPhone4s). Also most version of RAW don’t fully support EXIF style metadata and are therefore not supported either. The website has a few great success stories including Xander’s Canon (shown here)

Its also an example of a good open source project to I hope it is totally legit and wish the project well. You can even help out their data collection with a chrome extension and/or running a flickr scraper.

The important step, if your camera is lost or stolen, is to report it on their site, free membership give you one camera search, as well as using the free photo search. Professionally photographers and companies with a lot of photographic gear might see the benefit in Pro or Business membership.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Last Days for making your Christmas PhotoGifts

If you are keen to make some personalised photo gifts for your family and friends you are probably running out of time. You will definitely need to get them in for processing by the next few days.

There are an extensive range of gifts you can now personalise with your best photos, too many to cover here. However popular gift include calendars, diaries, personal stationary  mugs, stubbie holders, mouse mats, place mats, aprons, t-shirts, christmas decorations, … the list is pretty endless. In Australia, place like TED’s photolounge, Harvey Norman and Big W,all do enlargements canvas prints & photobooks and there are a few other specialty shops around but photogift creators have largely moved on-line. Some services like momento (best known for their quality photobooks) offer free software to help you prepare calendars and diaries on your computer before uploading them for printing, others like snapfish (formerly the backroom processor for rabbit prints and now owned by HP) or shutterfly (formerly Kodak Gallery), offer on-line preparation.

It pays to shop around as there are some great incentive discounts around. For instance the Melbourne’s AGE gift guide on sunday included some great deals via Vispatprint, including a $3 calendar (you also have to pay delivery)

If you haven’t prepared photo gifts before, start with something simple, maybe a calendar, and test the waters this years, Then get more creative next year. Finally here are a few tips to consider.


If your are preparing a calendar from an overseas/international company, check which public holidays are marked, as they may include US or UK holidays, like founders day or martin luther’s birthday and some events like mothers and fathers day are celebrated at different times in different countries. Daylight saving starting is another possible hiccup (it can even start on different times in different states

Tip 2

If your are preparing a photo gift with a photo of the intended recipient, make sure that they “like” the photo. Most people have very strong opinions about how they want themselves portrayed. It does really pay yo let them see the image first (you don’t need to tell them you intend to make it into a gift). They are usually pretty quick with their opinion, eg “Oh don’t I look hideous!”=>not a good gift.

On a somewhat related issue so parents are very protective of their children and can take strong offence to quiet innocent photos (eg funny expression, picking nose, “nudey” runs). It is best not to have anything likely to cause controversy on gifts,

Tip 3

Check it twice, even get someone else to check it. Most sites now have “click away responsibility”  dialogues before the orders are placed, which mean you are responsible for the image (quality) and spelling and accuracy of the text. If you are in a hurry to place and order these important little check can be overlooked. So when every thing is looking good, take a break, get a coffee then came back for a final check

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Why is a Defringing Tool so useful.

IMG_7768-1Tonight’s full moon was the classic harvest moon colouring, an orange yellow, even though its late spring here. I’m guessing its all the dust and pollen in the air. So I grabbed my telephoto and took a few exposures hoping to get something decent (most just showed a bleached out disk, the rest had those distracting purple halos.)

imageThere is a new set of sliders in Lighroom 4.2, under the Development Module, there has been a Remove Chromatic Aberration section for a while, way down the bottom of the panel under Lens Correction section. These sliders now give some much easier to use tools to deal with those annoying colour halos and fringes that often show up in many photos, especially in backlight subjects or high contrast areas, low f-stops (fast lenses) and high ISO sensitivity.Tings like the moon and the sun are classic cases as they are much brightyer than the sky around them.  In the Lightroom jargon these halos are grouped under the term a colour fringe, and thus defringing just means removing these colour artifacts.

Unfortunately the way my screen capture works I can not show you  the eye dropper in action, but the tool is very easy to use. You just click on the eyedropper in the Remove Chromatic Aberration panel and the cursor becomes an eyedropper with an associate panel that shows the fringe colour you have picked, by pointing the cursor/eydropper at the part of the halo you want to remove. This then automatically sets the individual sliders in the colour Chromatic Aberration sub panel, that deal with specific colour halo ranges and in most instances does a fine job of removing the colour halos  The slides do let you control which colours to want to remove from the halo and the two markers on each of the purple Hue & Blue Green Hue sliders can be used to set the range of colours you want removed, move them apart to remove the colour halo and “heals” the fringe around the subject. In this case the moon had a purplish rim (it may look red but it is more a purple hue.). I actually tweaked the sliders a little ;lift the strength of the puirple correction.It not perfect, the edge is still a little fuzzy but it is a decent image now.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Instagram Workshop :: Lesson 1

Spiral Composition red car bollywood dance workshop
godfrey being square & red purple car Diagonal composition

My little post yesterday didn’t include one very important point about Instagram. It uses only square crops! However when you are used to 3:4 and landscape formats the square is somewhat constraining and particularly how you tackle composition does require a rethink. Misho’s suggestion to center the subject and keep the background simple were a great start, but this still left me plenty of room to experiment.