Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Venus loves gelARTo

IMGP5413After a few stumbles on the way, I’ve finally managed to hang a couple works at a Venus Bay. Peter the friendly proprietor of the gelataria at the little village on the way to beach one, has opened up an area for local artists to display (and sell) their works.

The holiday crowds may have thinned but Venus Bay is still a delightful place to relax and get a away from the hassles of life. So why not visit, have a coffee and try one of the great flavours of gelato before looking at what might inspire some of the locals.

My works are based on the local waves. The surf beach at Venus Bay runs roughly north south so with the afternoon sun behind the waves and with a light offshore wind you seen beautiful aquas and deep rich blues. If you stay till sunset you can watch the sun slip into the ocean and perhaps see the famed “stairway to heaven” (its not just a phenomena of Cable Beach & Broome)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Slowing Down

I have been experimenting with night photography, I like to figure things out for my self. It was a moonless start to the night last night and largely clear skies (a few light clouds drifted by). The longest exposure I can get on my Pentax K20 (without manually holding the shutter down in B Bulb mode) is 30 second so I have had to open the aperture right up (only f4 on this lens) and really crank up the ISO to 3200 (I can go to 6400 but the digital noise is then too great). I did get some reasonable shoots but this one, take into the last two street lights in town does give the charming feel of man's artificial world trying to compete with the ancient light of the stars.

Moral : Despite the brilliant flash effect the manmade lights only create local pools of illumination. The Stars are eternal.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

ThePatch :: Is Loneliness a natural part of the Creativity?

The Patch theme this week is Loneliness/Togetherness, which at first looks like an Oxymoron. How can someone be lonely when they are part of togetherness? Yet deep in the creative process there is often that point where you are totally alone in yourself, trying something new, different, original … it is often the point at which the inspiration arises sometimes from deep within, sometimes as a chance observation. Once conceived other aspects of yourself need to kick in, the skill to design, the talent to make your marks and the wisdom to evaluate your creation. This is a perfect scenario for a little “multi-exposed” story of an artist sitting around a table. Now how to do that?
loneliness-002First I took a series of photos of myself in the individual poses, to tell the story. That bit was easy. The camera was on a tripod and you can see the remote control in my hand in the third shot, the one with the red shirt. Next I was keen to have a play with perfect effect 8’s layers capabilities. Alas it can only work on layers within one image, it doesn’t let you stack the layers from a number of images. So first I had to do that in corel photo paint. I little further tweak of the tone and clarity in lightroom, then back into perfect effects. You have to save a copy as a psd (photoshop format) to get the ability to use layer in perfect effects. This time I set up three different layers. The first a texturizer layer, there are dozens but I liked the Rice Paper Vignette, which I set to around 80% opacity. Next I had to set up setting up a mask around the fourth “lonely” me on the right. I used the “perfect brush” to paint in the mask and it did a very good job of stopping at the change of contrast. However it was a bit “laggy” as I used the brush so it was a bit fiddly to use (compared with the same task in corel photo paint). I then copied the mask (a really excellent feature) and pasted that onto my next layer which was a colour saturation control, called not surprisingly color reducer and here I went into the filter options and adjusted then saturation slider back to the left about -20%, rather than use the opacity of the filter. Finally I created another layer and this time using the portrait enhancer and the strong version. I paste the same mask again but this time I selected it in inverse, so what was painted out of the filters in the layers underneath was now painted in on this layer. I did experiment with incorporating another option inside this filter to give cooler colours but I felt the strong colouring suited the now darker image. These steps might sound a bit complex but it was actually relatively simple, not frightening at all! IMGP5295 collage 2 copyOne disappointment was I don’t think I set the feather large enough, because the perfect brush masking was a bit more precise than I expected. Unfortunately once you to commit to save and close the edits in perfect effect you loose the layering and the mask itself. I now know that you can get around this by saving your work as a new preset before you exit. That way you can reload your original, apply your saved preset and have access to all the layers, filters and masks.

My Art In the Clouds

Clouds photographed with my Pentax & pollarizing filterAn on-line “cloud” gallery for just my art (& photographic) works has been a sub-project of mine for a long time. Many social web services promised such things or even greater wonders but none seem to deliver what I wanted. I wasted a lot of time on the likes of Redbubble, Google+ pages, Adobe’s creative cloud and Behance, but you are supposed to learn by your mistakes they say. So I have created one of my own. Its pretty simple. It contains just my recent works available for sale or rental.

It doesn't have any built in web store features like a shopping cart but you are welcome to email me directly. More details in the cloud gallery itself.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

ThePatch :: An idea with a mind of its own

I am late as usual photographing my theme of the week, ok theme of last week, Togetherness/Love for the Patch. Rather than get to obvious I wanted this one to be more appealing Original Photos after a couple of tweaks in lightroomat an emotional level, which to any artist suggests colour and specifically pink or red, That's easy enough, but I also know that texture can have a big connection physically for a lot of viewing. An interesting texture often enlists a longer viewing. It was the subject matter that I was a bit slow to decide on, especial after most of my initial ideas, such as of shadow silhouettes, hands, wedding rings and heart shaped bokeh etc where already used and well applied. Then I though of the lovers knot, which occurs in slightly different forms across many cultures, essentially it is a simple continuous looping interconnecting knot. Sometimes the knot is based on an infinity loop, sometimes it is two strange looped together.
The text love used as a custom brushIt was easy to make a simple one with an old shoe lace and my wife helped out with my camera in shutter delay mode and on a tripod and a single overhead light. We held the lovers knot. It wasn’t hard to get the basic composition I was after. A little tweak Detail of my wife's fingers & ringon clarity and a slight vignette in lightroom and things were looking up. However the only red background I could find was the back of some pastel sketch, boringly matte and flat no exciting  texture here, albeit with some unwanted smudges of pastel. I had hoped to find a rich red lace to go with it (ok that would require extra time and the dead-line was now!) I remembered I have had great fun with texture in corel painter and corel paint, so I looked out a very old plug-in for paint called alchemy which allows you to use a brush of your own design and then control how this samples and paints an image. I quickly made up a small brush  (above left, its like a photoshop mask, black lets nothing though, white everything and greys between adjust the opacity accordingly) that used the word Love for the highlights, then I set the controls to vary the colour, size and angle of the brush depending on the hue and tone of the original photo (see detail above right). The brush they repeatedly samples the photo and the overlapping strokes create a new image. The results was definitely close to what I was after. So with a few tweaks of the alchemy settings to include some extra variation of the colour saturation, which helped enhance he texture in the background and voilĂ IMGP5244-with-love (and texture)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Skydrive to OneDrive is it only a name change?

I have been using, and liking the photo storage and sharing of SkyDrive for a long while now. However it has been an On/Off style relationship, DropBox has kind of taken over a lot of the uses I had been using Skydrive for. I was interested to see a little alert email to say SkyDrive will be changing its name To OneDive, so I went to investigate any likely changes. It looks just like a marketing issue to promote the Microsoft’s offerings as “One place for everything in your life” more than anything really new.

Reading between the lines and a few other blog posts I think OneDrive could easily be initially promoted as yet another on-line backup place. They will be offering ways to “earn” extra storage, either through referring friends (like drop box) or using one of their “camera roll backup” apps, which will take all the images from your phone into the OneSky cloud.   These offerings are unlikely to excite early SkyDrive adopters (like me) who already have a massive 25GB of storage, which I understand will not expire. SkyDrive already has some photo organizing features, so I’m interested to see if they can avoid rather than create the on-line mess phenomena.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The strange case of transparency & memory

After taking up the offer to download perfect effects 8, which is over now by the way, I was puzzled by the fact that when I ran the stand alone browser on my computers (I tried it out on two separate computers) would end up hanging as I clicked on a photo in the browser. Looking around the install notes and the manual I saw a warning for windows users about the graphic card drivers and memory (the minimum is stated as OpenGL 2.0 compatible video card with 256 MB dedicated video RAM, 1280x720 resolution) . BUT my drivers where up to date and I had exactly the required dedicated graphics memory on one computer and considerably more on the other. Some photography related forums have similar posts from several other frustrated OnOne window's user.  The link through lightroom worked fine, so I just had to stop using the standalone version.
Being able to run Perfect effects Standalone at last
imageI was checking out some diagnostics about system tune up stuff that HP provides on my desktop computer and one item grabbed my interest it related to the screen theme and it reported that the theme I was using, the Aero style, was using its full quota of memory and my system might be faster if I just used the Windows 7 Basic theme. Ok it made a very slight, perhaps imperceptible improvememt, but only if I was looking, to browsing speed and starting up new windows. The most obvious thing Areo does is give you transparent edges on your window as if you are looking through a glass pane. It looks nice but is just cosmetic, so it didn’t bother me having it turned off. You can find where to change the screen themes by clicking on your screen background and selecting personalize, you’ll have to scroll down a bit to find Windows 7 Basic theme. The interesting outcome is the edges of my panes are still translucent?

Graphics memory! I realized this might be the missing issue for running Photo Effects 8 in standalone mode. AND it was!

So if you have a windows PC and are having problems with Perfect Effects “freezing”and “hanging” your system, try changing the screen theme, it worked for me.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Month on and Google+ AutoBackup is a Vacuum

Its a month since I set up AutoBackup (as a trial) on one of my computers (a laptop onto which I load most of my photos, they will get stored permanently somewhere else). Well it is a real vacuum, as in cleaner, not void space. It sucks up everything as soon as it’s loaded, and often before I even seen the photos. Well before I get a chance to cull the duds and keyword or rank the better images. What it is building is an uncurated pile (aka a mess) rather than an organized backup!

So here are my observations after the first month of use.
  • It isn’t the bandwidth pirate I expected. It does seem to takes its time and not interfere too much with others on my network when it has a lot of images to load
  • It highlights some strange photos, and more importantly skips over some gems
  • I’m well over being auto awesomed
  • Many HDR sets and multi-image overlapping panorama sets are turned into Motion Gifs. This puzzles me?
  • I can not see tools to help me find specific images in the vast collection I am amassing on-line (scrolling through just one month’s uploads is already tedious)
  • I’m still uncertain if there are dangers involved with having most of your photos on-line somewhere in the clouds. So far I’m happy that the defaults are private and you have to specifically share an image to let others see it
  • Already there are many unintended duplicates
  • Sharing outside the Google+ world is difficult (even into blogger, see steps I had to use in image caption below)
  • Whilst you can easily download individual images there are no “recovery” tools that I can find
  • I’ll probably leave it installed for new uploads, at least for a month or so
  • BUT I have no plans to backup my full digital photo collection onto google+
An AutoBackedup photo, edited  including frame and then copied to another album in google+ photo before I could share it here

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What & Where am I?

Where & What am I?
For those that enjoyed my previous Melbourne Abstractions. 

Do you know what this is and where it is in Melbourne?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

PhotoFriday :: The Ibis arrive through the smoke haze


After the bush fires at the weekend just north of Melbourne, a thick haze has settle on suburban Melbourne and the Ibis flew into an orange brown twilight.

For PhotoFriday‘s topic twilight

The Offshore wind

This may look like a winter scene but yesterday hot northerly wind whipped up an angry sea, at least it was cool in.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

A Tern for the Better

I was again running out of options for my patch challenge this week. the hot weather was definitely sapping my creativity not to mention my enthusiasm. Saturday was a scorcher over 40°C and  Sunday was shaping up worse, dangerously hot and windy bushfire conditions, but luckily Venus Bay got a change just after lunch. What's good for us humans was not so kind for the terns. They usually fish solo out to sea a bit, up high against a bright sky and diving very fast. They are a real challenge to capture as a decent photo. The cool change bought equally strong if not stronger onshore winds and the terns were grounded for a while taking shelter from the harsh winds on the beach. They arrived alone or in two and threes flying low and on the beach all turned to face the wind.
IMGP4926-1  IMGP4955-1
One pair came along in perfect synch and I knew as I panned with them there would be a good photo, teamwork where they is normally solitary flight.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Culling Photos

This is a really hard thing for a lot of photographers, maybe even me. The simplest way to cull photos is actually not take them in the first place. However with digital cameras it is just too easy to keep pressing the shutter button, well until your memory card fills. These cards are very affordable (now less in most cases than a roll of 35mm film). So the temptation is there to "Spray & Pray".

I don't think there is a perfect way to sort and organise photos. It is a very personal thing in reality. However I don’t really like being forced into a specific "workflow" that must be religiously followed (are you listening lightroom?). Trying to rate images immediately by "chimping" (looking at the LCD screen on the back of the camera), not only wastes time you could be taking photographs, the ambient light will probably make the image hard to view and evaluate properly. I know in my bones that as you first load and review your photos (whether that is from your phone onto a web service or from a DSLR onto your computer), that the right time to do the culling is as you first view your images.  Trust your first impressions and gut feel they are probably right.

Here is my list of what should be discarded immediately
  • Very poorly exposed (see caveat below)
  • Subject out of focus (the degree of sharpness is a personal thing because post processing sharpening has come along way)
  • Subject is awkwardly cut off
  • The photo is not flattering or shows potential for embarrassment (no definitely don't post it on instagram delete it now!)
  • There is a set of very close photos/images (unless that are really good just keep one, it may be the first rather than the last!)

To be honest you can "rescue"  a lot of poorly exposed photos, particularly if you have the RAW original, but if the image doesn't "grab you" to begin with, you will just end up with a boring yet better exposed image. You may as well discard it.

At the same time you are culling you should also flag those images that have potential for post processing. I have found I much prefer doing this stage in Picasa or Corel Aftershot Pro. In Picasa I delete both the jpeg & RAW files immediately and flag the photos with potential with a star (Picasa only has a one star rating). In AfterShot Pro I don't bother importing the images into its library/catalogue but I do use their flags, which are the same as lightroom's also I'm finding after shot's compare view (like lightroom's survey mode) nice to use (picasa can compare two images nicely but after that its complex) and also after shot's little magnifier is a real gem. The nice thing with after shot is you can save the metadata and ratings done at this stage to an XMP sidecar file and these settings will be loaded in lightroom later. The big advantage of this approach is speed (if you have a full 4GB card) I can pretty much guarantee you will be able to the load the photos from the card, do the culling and rating  in Picasa and/or AfterShot Pro before lightroom has even finished importing the photos off the card.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Very Late on The Patch project

Despite having great plans for a togetherness series on The Patch I have seen my deadline slip away with lost opportunities, missed commitments and other distractions, suddenly its Tuesday. Hey wait that’s Monday in the USA, which is yesterday here! So maybe just maybe I can make the deadline.
Lightroom & Perfect Effects working together to bring me happiness
I was working away patiently recovering important processed versions of photos from lightroom (definitely not a happy story). I managed to loose a my processing setting and collections of the vast majority of my photos, not sure how yet, but I do have backups in incomplete bits. It looks like most things are there somewhere in the dozen of different backups I have but that some things got lost between the backups (especially what was in collections). I can’t see an automated way to recover things so its down to a slow and piecemeal update of the photos I have starred (can still see these ratings in picasa). At the same time I am occasionally running some images into perfect effects 8, which is another sad story, but it does play nicely with lightroom.
Post processed photo orginally take with my Olympus in 2004
Rather than submit the happy post processed photo of these kids playing in New Guinea (photo above) that I took on my beloved Olympus a decade ago, I figured it would be in the spirit of the patch to post a photos of the two pieces of software working together to bring me happiness (top photo).

Monday, February 03, 2014

Now you see it, now you don’t

its a while since I’ve mentioned flickr, in fact i really haven’t been posting to it much. Not because of the new format (I’m not really a fan but its much the same as other offerings) its all about “stripping”. They are still stripping the EXIF & IPTC metadata (including details or copyright or creative commons) and the photo ownership details) when the images are downloaded. This unfortunately creates what are known as orphan works (photos that in theory you can not establish the photos ownership). The problem being that in some countries it would appear re-publishing such photos, without the copyright holders permission is acceptable providing the re-publisher acted in good faith in searching for the photos owner, even though that was unsuccessful! See the legal loops holes opening up here!!!

exif details are dispalyed correctly inside flickr  Unfortu8nately the exif details are stripped when the image is downloaded

Flickr isn’t the only social media service to do this but they are the one I would prefer to use.

This actually posses a big problem for creative people who want to share their work, even using creative commons. For example I don’t mind other using my images providing they acknowledge me, and that they don’t use my images for their own profit. A lot of people have contacted me and all is sweat, Unfortunately using google image search or TinEye I know some of my images have been used all over the place without my permission. So I have reluctantly taken the approach of adding a visible watermark onto my flickr posts. In reality this is not going to stop unauthorised reposting, or help me track down those just stealing the photos. To do that I should just stop posting to flickr (or most other social web sites). I hope it will just make those thinking of using eth photo think twice before downloading it. Flick actually has a good blogging link feature that includes a link back to the original flickr image (which does have the EXIF data intact).

If you want to use one of my images for a blog, or brochure for your organization, or any other reasonable use and you don’t like watermarks just send me an emails

Dawn Today