Chocolate Photography

As product photography goes I will happily shoot anything from nuts and bolts to silk scarves, hair salon products and more, but when it comes to adding the joy of smelling and tasting some of the delights of your product shoot what can one say when it comes to photographing chocolate! “Bliss” perhaps?

Naturally there are the standard every day products but then there is Easter, Mothers Day, Valentines Day, Christmas and other seasonal specials and “one offs”, new packaging etc. etc.

Here are just a few of the shots that I have had the pleasure of shooting in the last year:-

 

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Image Composite Editor from Microsoft

Always game to try out other programs and plugs-ins from alternative sources to Adobe I recently discovered this from good old Microsoft!  Whilst Adobe’s stitching is very good indeed the speed at which this program stitches images together is something else and the quality of the final images is right up there as well.

Do try it out and let me know what you think….I await comments in anticipation!

 

 

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Elements 11 on special offer

Elements 11 is currently on special offer at Amazon
Only £32.99 for anyone interested in this amazing bargain and keen to start out on the Photoshop trail!

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Gideon Onofeghara music concert shoot

Gideon  Onofeghara celebrated another new CD release this week with “Grace is Here”. I was requested to take a selection of images of the event as a memory of the evening.

Although reluctant to use flash photography for this type of event Gideon had no problems allowing me to use some additional lighting, so a large number of the stage shots were shot using two Bowen lights, one either side of the stage. This allowed me to use a smaller aperture to capture a variety of shots, moving to a large aperture for the non-flash work. My 50mm prime lens was a joy to use for some of these shots although I confess an 85mm is going on the shopping list shortly.

Here is a small selection of the event showing Gideon, his singers and some of the audience enjoying the concert.

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Product Photography for T-Mex Express

Photographing shiny objects always poses a challenge and nuts and bolts are no exception to that rule. T-Mex Express have recently launched a new web-site for on-line purchase of their  pneumatics, pipe fittings, fixings, irrigation and mechanical engineering fixings, fittings, clamps, clips, and tubing to name but a few.

With the exception of the “PVC” and “pump” images all of the front page image were taken by us along with the majority of the indivivdual ones within each section. http://www.t-mex.co.uk/clips-clamps.html is a good example.

Here at GPDS we are happy to photograph virtually anything from tiny objects using our 100mm macro lens and focus stacking expertise, through to much larger objects using a range of lenses and filters.

Please give us a call on 07711 550771 if you think we might be able to help you too…..

 

 

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Artisan du chocolat photographs

Delighted to be working with Artisan du chocolat – check out the front page of their web-site to see my images and their amazing chocolates!

http://artisanduchocolat.com/

 

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Front page image on Photographers Direct

Extremely pleased to have one of my portraits displayed on the front page of the Photographers Direct Web-site today…..

http://www.photographersdirect.com/

If you are after a stock photo then this is a great place to look. Professional images from professional photographers.  The thing I like about this Company is they rate your images on quality. The higher your image rating the more space they give you free of charge. The lower your rating and you use up all your space. …. + the higher the rating the more likely it is your image will be on the front page for your chosen category so that image buyers are more likely to find one of your images……all in all this means the quality of images you get on their site are considerably better on average than many of the other stock image sites.

I’m pleased to say that the majority of my images have been rated very highly and my space is growing rather than decreasing.

If you need a stock image then this Company is a great place to start….that is after you have checked out my images first !!!

Happy hunting….

 

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Ashford Arts and Technology Festival details

Looking forward to attending the Ashford Arts and Technology Festival in September along with Ashford Photographic Society – Pop the date in your diary now – it will be an annual event and one not to be missed – see the following link if you are keen to find out more – http://www.ashfordfestival.org/showcase-your-craft and http://festivalmarket.eventbrite.com to book your table.

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Keeping up to date with my activities on Facebook

If you are a fan of facebook why not check out my page here www.facebook.com/GalileoSolutions. It will feature some of my recent work and I’m hoping to add some more tips and techniques soon….

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Making the most of moody skies

Last week when I was in Aberystwyth with hubby Gordon and daughter (who was Uni visiting) I had a 1½ window to do some photography one morning. Not perhaps the best time between 10.30 am and noon but better on a Winters day than mid-summer that’s for sure. As luck would have it however, the weather was very changeable with a mix of dark moody skies and bright sunny intervals; all I needed was a great foreground!

Initially I ventured out to the harbour end of Aber and walked along the pier. Being so cold and windy there were few people mad enough to be out walking so the place was pretty much deserted. After taking a selection of shots here the next stop was on the far side of the harbour, then we drove down a small road leading to a dead end when suddenly the sun came out and as we were turning around to drive back to “home base” I suddenly spotted an old shack with a bath in front of it. Perfect. A great back-drop, great lighting and a moody sky – what more could one ask for!

Herewith 3 of the images, the latter two being the same image with different processing.

Enjoy

PGMO 0062_Peace on the pier_IMG_9862 POPI 0077  A lonely walk flat POCR 232B No longer in use colour PGMO 0063 Not in use

 

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Byte order in Photoshop CS6

Since getting CS6 one of the things that puzzled me when saving Tiff files was the default setting itself to the Macintosh instead of IBM PC for the byte order. I have a PC so naturally assumed that I should be using the IBM PS setting and wondered how to go about setting this as the default value. Problem being you can’t seem to!
Seemingly however, (after reading the article linked below for those of you interested in the technical details) it just isn’t important these days.

Whether or not you have a PC or a MAC you can save it as one or the other and will both be fine. Why Adobe can’t set it to the IBM PC setting as default as the majority of users have PC’s I have no idea but that’s life I guess.

The summary from the article is that Adobe are keeping the option there simply for backward compatibility.  If you happen to be using old software made for one platform to read a file saved in the byte order that originated on the other platform then you might just need it, but otherwise you are unlikely to suffer any problems.

This is the link for those that want to know more….

http://www.earthboundlight.com/phototips/tiff-byte-order.html

Another question resolved!

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Photographing chocolate today – a dream commission!

Starting work with a new Company today photographing some amazing chocolate – watch this space

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An easy way to move layers in Photoshop

If you’ve ever tried dragging layers up and down one place you know what it’s like – sometimes they don’t move at all and at other times they move up or down two layers instead of one!

Well here is a quick an easy way to move a single layer up or down one

1) Ensure you have the layer highlighted that you want to move

2) Hold down the Ctrl key and either press the [ key to move the layer down or ] to move it up

Easy and quick.

 

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Fine Touch: Photoshop plug-in for fine-artistic effect

One of my favourite suppliers of plug-ins – Redfield have given us all another freebie to experiment with and it’s well worth a go. Click here to take a look at the styles available and to download the plug-in. Experiment and enjoy.

Fine Touch: Photoshop plug-in for fine-artistic effect.

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Photographing waterfalls

Introduction

How many times have you been on holiday and seen a dramatic waterfall and wanted to capture its beauty, only to find when you look at the images, you are a bit disappointed?

Below are some simple tips and examples that will help you to get better shots next time.

Falls near Ingleton, North Yourkshire | 8 seconds; f/14; ISO 50; 3-stop ND filter

1. Lighting

Photography is all about light and, when it comes to photographing a waterfall, you’re up against it from the start. Waterfalls will have very bright highlights (the water splashes) and very dark areas (typically rocks and both dry and wet shadow areas), hence the dynamic range of the scene is wide. If the waterfall is in direct sunlight there’s a strong possibility that this range will be outside that of your camera’s sensor.

So you may need to ‘compress’ the dynamic range. Take a few test shots, assess your histograms for clipping of the highlights and shadow areas. The main interest in a waterfall photo is in the highlights of the splashing/running water so you must hold in the detail there by protecting them. The danger is that you will do this at the expense of shadow detail and the rest of the scene will appear very dark and bland.

So, here is what you can do:

  • Use a polarising filter to suppress the bright light coming from the highlights
  • Visit at a time of the day when the whole waterfall is in shade
  • Use fill-in flash, to lift the shadows

My preference is to try a different time of day as this is technically much easier and will give you the best results – of course, you may be in the middle of nowhere and returning at another time might be impractical.

2. Shooting mode

To capture some interesting effects you will want to shoot at different shutter speeds, so it makes sense to shoot in Shutter Priority (‘S’ or ‘Tv’) mode. To ‘freeze’ the movement of a fast-flowing fall you will need to shoot at 1/1000th of a second. Note: You may have to bump up your ISO to achieve this in shady conditions.

At the other extreme, to get that really milky/misty effect, a shutter speed of 20 seconds is not uncommon. For this you may well require a neutral density filter (I carry 3-stop and 10-stop filters with me all the time).

3. Composition

My personal preference is not to include any sky in the shot – I just want to see the waterfall. This means getting a vantage point at a similar level to the top of the fall (not always possible) or choosing to photograph what I would term a ‘cascade’, where you can pick out detailed areas rather than the whole fall. This way, you can ensure that the dynamic range is kept narrow.

Think about the normal composition rules of photography (rule of thirds, leading lines etc) when composing the scene.

Cotter Force

Cotter Force, North Yorkshire | 75mm focal length; 1/13 second; f/14; ISO 50

4. Technical considerations and work flow

Using a tripod is a given – I hope I don’t need to explain why!

Make sure that you are comfortable with using your camera in Shutter Priority mode and that you know how to dial in exposure compensation. Once you have decided on the scene take a few test shots so you can get the exposure right – i.e. a small amount of clipping of the highlights – by using exposure compensation.

Next, decide which shutter speeds you would like to shoot at and dial in the first of these (I normally start at the fast end and work down), say 1/1000. I then try somewhere around 1/8 to 1/4 and then a long one – anything between 2 and 20 seconds.

Bear in mind that there may be 15 stops difference between your fastest and slowest shutter speeds and your lens may have only 7 or 8 aperture stops. In fact, you may only have 4 or 5 usable stops such that you can maintain enough depth of field to keep all the scene in focus. This is why you will need to adjust your ISO setting and possibly use an ND filter to achieve the very slow shutter speeds.

5. Examples

The examples below were shot with a focal length of 45mm at a small roadside cascade near the Dordogne river in France. Note the shutter speeds and how they affect the appearance of the water – also included are the other settings for reference.

1/1000 second; f/5.0; ISO 800

1/4 second; f/14; ISO 50

2 seconds; f/14; ISO 50; 3-stop Neutral density filter

I hope this was of some help and that you will tackle the challenge with more confidence next time.

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A quick Photoshop tip – how to view only the background layer

Ever got frustrated when you’ve been working in Photoshop having produced a multi-layered file and want to do a quick check to see what your original background layer looked like without having to click on each eye to turn off all the layers above?

Simply Hold down the “ALT” key then click on the bottom eye of your base layer and all the others will automatically be turned off.

To turn back on again repeat the above command.

 

 

 

 

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Highlight Tone Priority with Canon cameras – review

Introduction

A fellow photographer said that they use the Highlight Tone Priority (HTP) mode on their Canon dSLR as it helped to prevent clipping of highlights. I never blindly follow anyone’s advice these days but decided to do some digging around on the Internet to see what all the fuss was about.

If you search ‘highlight tone priority’ on the web you get a whole raft of articles (see the references section below for a few examples) which explain the theory behind this mode. Some things were clear from reading these. Firstly, it does not magically increase the dynamic range of your sensor and secondly, it works differently depending on whether you shoot JPEG or RAW (even which RAW converter you use). So, it was time to do some experimentation with my own kit and software to find out what can be achieved.

Before reading on please be aware that HTP is part of the camera’s internal image processing algorithms that take the data from the sensor and transpose it into the digital file on your memory card. There are many Canon cameras with this feature and I don’t know how similar the implementations are across the product range.

Note: For Nikon owners, the equivalent technology is referred to as Active D-Lighting.

Aims

My objectives were quite simple:

  1. Asses the value of the mode when shooting JPEG and RAW
  2. Assess whether the choice of RAW conversion software matters
  3. Prove/disprove the commonly held notion that enabling HTP is equivalent to underexposing by 1 stop

Experimentation

My test kit was a 1D Mk IV with a 100mm macro lens. I set up a very simple still life scene (from what was readily available; namely a tea cup, tea pot and a remote trigger). The items were assembled in the studio, with controlled side-lighting.

I set the ISO to 200 and shot in aperture mode at f/8. The camera was tripod mounted as exposures were under a second.

I captured three images, each being saved as JPEG (‘faithful’ mode) and RAW, giving six image files in total.

  • HTP disabled – the control
  • HTP enabled
  • 1 stop underexposed

Results – JPEG

Images and histograms from JPEGs shown via the ‘Levels’ control in CS5

HTP off - Control

HTP off - Control

HTP On

HTP On

When HTP is turned on note how the brighter areas (the china of the mug) are rendered darker. The highlight area of the histogram has been being shifted to the left, whilst the shadow area is largely the same as with HTP off. So, pretty much as claimed by Canon.

Now let’s look at the image shot 1 stop underexposed. This looks very different to either of the first two shots and to my eye just looks like a slightly underexposed image – certainly anyone who regularly ‘shoots to the right’ would say so.

HTP off, -1EV

HTP off, -1EV

Results – RAW

For my raw processing I use Lightroom 3 exclusively, so I installed V3.9.3 of DPP to complete the experiment.

There are claims that Canon’s own DPP software will interpret the RAW file ‘properly’  and the HTP effects that are seen in JPEG mode will be evident.

The images you see below were loaded into Lightroom and the histograms taken directly from there with the default settings I use with my 1D camera. The corresponding histogram from DPP is shown below.

HTP Off from RAW

HTP Off - Lightroom histogram

HTP Off - DPP histogram

HTP Off - DPP histogram

HTP On

HTP On - Lightroom histogram

 HTP On - DPP histogram

HTP On – DPP histogram

Comparison of the two histograms shows that DPP brings the highlights safely back from being clipped, whereas Lightroom does not.

HTP off -1EV

HTP off -1EV

The 1 stop underexposed image just looks like its JPEG counterpart – underexposed.

The biggest thing to notice is that if anything, the one taken with HTP on actually looks more overexposed that when it is turned off! This may indeed be due to Lightroom not being able to interpret the HTP nuances in the RAW file.

Conclusions

My findings are as follows:

1. For JPEG shooters

HTP appears to protect the highlights with little or no change to the mid or shadow tones. So, if you are a JPEG shooter it may be worth turning HTP mode on if you find that your highlights are being clipped.

2. For RAW shooters

If you use DPP it’s possible to open the file and for the HTP effects to be visible (making it appear similar to what is achieved in JPEG mode).

Using ACR or Lightroom the effect appears to be ‘lost in translation’ and the resultant image/histogram clearly show that highlights are clea still clipped. I’ve been in this game to know that all that glistens isn’t gold and I’d like to find out whether it’s a real gain or just smoke and mirrors.

3. HTP compared to underexposing by 1 stop

It is clearly evident from my findings that the effects of HTP are quite different to what is achieved by underexposing by 1EV, which simply gives an underexposed image.

Overall summary

My initial findings lead me to conclude that HTP can be a useful tool in protecting those important highlights for JEPG shooters. If you are a RAW shooter and you use DPP then you can achieve the same benefit.

My next task is to spend some more time investigating the differences between DPP and ACR/Lightroom to determine whether there is a real world advantage to using DPP.

References

  1. Rabble House has posted a very simple video example of it in use, both in photography and video modes
  2. Cambridge in Colour post
  3. Article by Jorgen Escher
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Top Ten Photoshop tips

You’ve read Martin’s Top Ten Photography tips and here is my Photoshop Top Ten.

1. PANIC NOT

Don’t be afraid of the program!  At first sight mild panic is often followed by clicking the little red cross in top right hand corner. It might look complicated at the outset but when you start to break the interface down it really does start to become far more logical. (I’ve had it compared to an airplane instrument panel on several occasions). After some simple instruction you will soon start to fly.

2. RAW CONVERTER

On the assumption that you have taken your images in RAW, make sure to optimise your images in Adobe Camera Raw. Investing time understanding how to effectively use the adjustments possible here is a must before you start working in Photoshop.

3. LAYERS

Layers are fundamental to efficient use of Photoshop. Learn how to use layers and it will not only save you time but will make your work-flow more efficient. Always select “adjustment layers” when changing things such as levels, curves, hue & saturation etc. so that if you wish to edit or delete the adjustment it is all contained in that layer.

4. LAYER MASKS

Once you have mastered layers add layer masks to your repertoire of skills. You will never use the eraser brush again and life will become much easier.

5. CLONE ONTO A BLANK LAYER

Always clone onto a separate blank layer; then you will be able to move, rotate, and transform your cloned area to your heart’s content.

6. READ PHOTOSHOP MAGAZINES

Purchase or borrow some photoshop magazines to pick up project ideas. Start with some of the simpler techniques and work them through. My favourite two magazines on the (UK) market are Digital Photo and Photoshop Creative

7. SHORT-CUTS

Learn my Top ten short-cuts. They will save a serious amount of time when editing your images.

8. MONOCHROME IMAGES

There are numerous ways to create monochrome images but my favourite is to select the Black and White adjustment layer and then tweak each colour until the overall contrast is to my satisfaction. There is no such thing as a standard setting here; every image is different and will need to be adjusted to suit the overall tones and colours to optimise your final creation.

Creating a new adjustment layers in the ‘Layers’ palette

 

The black and White adjustment layer

The benefit of this approach is that it will automatically give you a layer mask. If you fancy adding a little colour tone to your image you can also click on the tint box at the top and select the colour of your choice. Sepia is a popular choice but do keep it subtle!

9. SAVE YOUR SELECTIONS

Ever spent half and hour or more carefully selecting an object then get called to tea, saved your image and lost the selection? Never again! Make sure you save your selection so that you can reload them as and when necessary as shown below.

Saving your selections
Name your selection and click OK
Re-load your selection
Select the appropriate selection (you may have saved several, hopefully all with slightly different names)! Click Ok and your selection will be re-loaded exactly as it was before.

10. PRACTISE

As with anything, if you want to keep up to date with all the current and future tools in Photoshop it’s practise, practise, practise.

SUMMARY

Experiment along the way. Check out the filters for some different creative effects.

Try clicking on something new every day for a week and reap the rewards.

If you are still getting stuck and frustrated then why not check out our 1-to-1 Photoshop tuition.

 

 

 

 

 

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Top Ten Photography Tips

The aim of this article is to provide ten key areas to work on to improve your photographs.

Firstly, we need to think about the factors that contribute to a great image. I try to photograph common objects that people can relate to, but the twist is to present them in a way that is different and to stimulate the imagination of the viewer.

Of course, photography is a mixture of art and science so there are a range of compositional and technical skills to master.

Check out our hands-on photographic tuition offerings at Galileo Solutions Ltd or call us on 01233 646263.

So here we go; my top ten photo tips.

1 Start with the future in mind

Get used to building an idea of what you are going to photograph before you leave the house. Don’t just go out aimlessly clicking away. The more you visit the same place the  more new things you will see to photograph and each time you go, try something different. You don’t have to travel the world to get great photos.

2 Understand exposure and histograms

Do you know how your camera evaluates the exposure of each shot and how it is easily fooled in different situations?

Ever wondered what that graph on the rear LCD next to the image when you preview is?

By understanding exposure compensation and interpretation of image histograms there is no excuse for poorly exposed images.

One of my pet hates is ‘grey snow’ – the image below has +1.7EV of exposure compensation to render the snow white, just like nature intended.

Winter stroll

+1.7EV exposure compensation

3 Eliminating camera shake forever

This is one of the most common issues for those new to photography. Essentially, all the time the shutter is open, the sensor is capturing what comes through the lens. If the camera moves, even slightly, during this period the resultant image will be blurred.

As a general rule, when hand-holding, maintain a shutter speed faster than the reciprocal of the lens focal length. OK, that’s a bit confusing; for a 50mm lens use a shutter speed faster than 1/50th, a 200mm lens use faster that 1/200th – got it?

Of course, for the ultimate control, use a tripod.

Cotter Force

13 second exposure; tripod mounted; mirror lockup; 2-second timer delay

4 Use depth-of-field as a creative tool

There are three factors that control depth of field: lens focal length; focal distance; lens aperture. Once you have mastered how to use these effectively (it won’t happen overnight), together with ensuring that you focus on the right part of the scene, you will be well on the way to better images.

Ricky Fowler

By shooting with an aperture of f/4 the Rolex logo is rendered out of focus

5 Change your angle of attack

Don’t just photograph things front-on. Move to an oblique angle, get down low or up high. Give the viewer a different experience.

Fish and Chips

Shooting from the side, with the camera angled (and shallow DOF)

7 Take fewer photos – think QUALITY not QUANTITY

My dSLR will take 10 frames a second, but this mode is reserved for moving subjects such as birds in flight or motor sport. As a general rule, it’s far better to come back with 20 really good images than 200 average ones. Don’t take the shotgun approach; think QUALITY not QUANTITY!

8 Learn how to master fill-in flash

When working in tricky back-lit situations, or taking photographs of people outside, fill-in flash is an often overlooked and undervalued technique. It’s really not that difficult to do and the results can be stunning. Take time to add this to your photographic toolkit.

9 Develop a photographic work flow

If you are new to photography, all the things you need to consider, both compositional and technical can be overwhelming. By developing a work flow you can tackle each of these in a systematic way such that you are only thinking of one thing at a time.

10 Join a photographic club or society

By surrounding yourself and engaging with like-minded people you can quickly improve your skills. Sitting through a competition and listening to the judge’s comments will help you understand what makes a great image.

In my local areas (Kent) there are a large number of clubs. Check out a list on the Kent County Photographic Association website.

And that’s just the start . . .

Finally, don’t underestimate how impostant the image processing phase is, because in the digital age, capturing the image on your memory card is only the first step. This will be the subect of a future blog post.

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New Topaz Star plug-in just out

Introduction

Here at Galileo we are great fans of the Topaz range of plug-ins (our favourite being the “Adjust” variant which is brilliant for HDR effects and all manner of other lighting effects, detail control and so much more)

Anyway, just thought we would let you all know (if you’re not already on their mailing list) that they recently introduced a new plug-in called “Creative Star and Lighting Effects”. We’ve just downloaded the free 30 day trial version so thought we’d try it out and show you a few examples.

First attempts

Herewith a few examples showing some of the variants available. Once you have selected a pre-set on the left hand side you can then move to the right, where you will find further adjustments that may be used to fine tune or enhance your image still further.

Experiment and see which star shape suits your image the best.

If you have already tried out this new Topaz plug-in please do let us have your comments. We’d love to see some of your images too so please do send us your flickr link.

A 4 pointed star for this shot

Candles with four pointed stars

Candles with four pointed stars

Using the “candlelight” setting

Candle light setting

Using the “stars 5″ setting

stars 5 setting

Using the “purple stars” setting (my favourite of the bunch)

purple stars setting

Conclusion

I’m truly sorry to say this Topaz but, after trialing for a few days, I won’t be purchasing it just yet.  The idea is great, but somehow it just doesn’t work for me. I will be sticking with the brushes in Photoshop and making my own star variants as and when I really need them.

Priced at $29.99 it isn’t expensive so if you fancy a flutter then give it a go. I will still be highly recommending all of their other plug-ins though which are truly superb.

See their web-site at http://www.topazlabs.com/stareffects/ for further details

 

 

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Developing a workflow for landscape photography

Developing a workflow in Landscape photography

Introduction

Whilst this document is written with landscape photography in mind the process can be applied to many other situations when you are working with a tripod (e.g. still life or macro photography).

The idea of having a workflow is that it breaks the key parts of the photographic process down into ‘bite-sized’ chunks that are executed in order. This simplifies matters so you are less likely to make mistakes and will have more ‘keepers’ from your outings.

 The workflow consists of the following steps:

  1. Preparation
  2. Composition
  3. Focusing
  4. Exposure
  5. Taking the photograph

 1.     Preparation – where and when

This is a very important phase that is often overlooked by those new to photography. If you just go out with your camera hoping to get a good photograph, the chances are you probably won’t!

If you have ‘the image’ you want to take in your mind before you start your trip you will have a far better chance of success. Things to think about are:

Where

If you are starting out, there are many ‘top landscape destination’ articles in magazines and, with the advent of geo-targeting, there is much on the web now too. This approach is all well and good but be aware that if you follow this path you may end up becoming frustrated that you can’t recreate something as good as David Noton.

My personal preference is to find my own subjects and locations as I get more satisfaction from this than creating just another ‘me too’. When I’m out and about I’m always keeping an eye on the landscape and making mental notes of places to come back to.

When

Most landscape photographers work in the hours either side of sunrise and sunset and will rarely be seen out in the middle of the day in direct sunlight. This is because the light at the extremes of the day has less contrast (lower dynamic range) and it is much easier to manage your exposures. Also, the ‘colour temperature’ of the light is such that you will have some more pleasing tones (e.g. warm/yellow light before sunset). Shadows will be softer and easier to work with too.

If you are going somewhere new, check it out on Google Earth first and see which direction the sun will be at during the day. Also, if you are going to the coast, make sure you know when high and low tides are. I purchased a Kent tide table for the whole year from a local fishing shop for £1 – now that’s value. There are also some internet resources such as the BBC which will give you tide tables for the whole of the UK up to a week in advance.

Camera settings

Because I’m looking for optimum image quality I will typically shoot at 100 or 200 ISO.

I always use mirror-lockup and a 2-second timer delay. Instead of the timer delay you can equally use a remote release cable/wireless trigger. With these methods we are just trying to make sure that the camera doesn’t move whilst the shutter is open so that we get a pin-sharp image.

One thing that you need to be aware of is that when you are not looking through the viewfinder, light can enter through it an affect the camera’s in-built exposure meter. This can lead to your images being under-exposed. When setting your exposure (in Manual mode – covered in section 4 below) it is best to do this through the viewfinder or to blank it off with the back of your hand (if your camera does not have a blanking switch).

2.     Composition

Start off by working round the location, looking through the viewfinder of your camera, to find an aspect that pleases you. As well as trying different focal lengths, don’t forget to explore different heights too.

 What to include

Particularly when working with wide angle shots, make sure that you have foreground, mid-ground and background interest in the picture. Try to avoid having large areas of the image with little in them (e.g. uninteresting grass/sand or a bland sky) as these will kill the image.

Not all landscape images are taken with a wide angle lens. Indeed, my favourite lens is a 70-200 and, because perspectives are flattened at these focal lengths, foreground/background balance is less important.

Separation

Once you have identified what will be the main components of the image you will need a vantage point and focal length that will allow you to separate these in the frame. Think about what is crossing the horizon and whether changing height will improve things.

Avoiding overlapping components in your images is a key skill that you need to acquire.

Rule of thirds

The rule of thirds says to place important structural elements on an imaginary third or an intersection of thirds. This really works so get used to framing things off-centre rather than positioning things in the middle of your shots.

Think about your horizons too. If the sky is offers little interest then look to have the horizon on the upper third. If the sky is full of moody or interesting clouds, look to put the horizon on the lower third. Some of my very best landscape shots have no sky in them at all!

3.     Focusing

Once you have settled on your chosen composition, put your camera securely onto your tripod, making sure that any key vertical or horizontal components are correctly aligned.

Decide on how much of the scene you wish to retain in focus. Generally, in landscape photography, we want it sharp front-to-back. To achieve this you will need to understand the three parameters that determine depth of field, namely: lens focal length, focal distance and lens aperture. There is too much to cover in this article but you will typically be looking to focus about a third of the way into the scene with an aperture between f/8 and f/16. I prefer to work in ‘live view’ mode with manual focusing when shooting landscapes.

4.     Exposure

Now that the composition and focusing are taken care of we are getting towards the end of the process. The penultimate phase is to tackle exposure. Nowadays, with dSLRs having the ability to show a histogram of your image there is less of a need for a light meter.

In Manual mode, I start by assessing the scene and adjusting my shutter speed to what I think will give me a good exposure (having set my aperture as part of the focusing step above). I’ll then take a test shot and look at the histogram. This will show me the dynamic range of the scene and give me all the details I need to determine whether any filtering is required. As you get more experienced you will soon develop a feel for filtering requirements before you even take a test shot.

I regularly use polarising or graduated neutral density filters (and occasionally both) to manage my exposures, to reduce the tones in skies or other bright areas. If you opt for using a polariser just remember a few golden rules.

  • Rotating the front element whilst looking through the viewfinder will allow you to work through to find the optimum angle/effect.
  • Polarising filters work best when you are photographing at 90 degrees to the direction of the sun
  • When using with very wide angle lenses you may well get a gradation of colour across the sky
  • If you rotate your camera from landscape to portrait orientation you will need to rotate the filter in the opposite direction to maintain the same effect

With graduated neutral density filters, choose a combination that will allow you to reduce the dynamic range sufficiently to give a good tonal range across the scene.

Remember when using either of these types of filter that you will reduce the total amount of light entering the camera which means that you will need to move to slower shutter speeds to maintain the optimum exposure.

Try to get your histogram so that the highlights (RHS) are pushed so that they are almost or slightly burnt out (the latter can be brought back in Photoshop) – so called ‘exposing to the right‘.

5.     Taking the photograph

All that is left now is to take the photograph.

Summary

It won’t happen overnight, but if you can put this process into practice, it won’t be long until you start seeing an improvement in your images.

 I hope you find this article interesting.

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GZ Computers legacy support

We are often contacted by people who are grateful to find that many of the services they received from GZ Computers are still available in Ashford at Galileo Solutions, including the Epson Repair Centre and expert PC, laptop and printer repairs.

On occasion, we also get calls from customers who had an email account via GZ. We have put together a support document on our website that gives all the contact information for both GConnect and Entanet mail providers.

If you have any queries don’t hesitate to call us at Galileo Solutions.

 

 

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Choosing a tripod

Why use a tripod?

Sooner or later you will be in a situation (e.g. low light) where you cannot hand-hold your camera without your images suffering from the effects of camera shake. As a general rule, your shutter speed should be faster than the reciprocal of your effective lens focal length – i.e. with a focal length of 200mm you should be shooting at a minimum of 1/200th of a second. Of course, if your lens (Canon/Nikon) or camera body (Sony) has technology to reduce camera shake (Image Stabilisation / Vibration Reduction / Steady Shot) then this will give you more latitude. So with a 200mm lens you may be able to get reasonably sharp images down to 1/25th of a second.

There are other advantages to using a tripod, in that it forces you to slow down and gives you both hands free to change your camera/lens settings.

How do I know what is right for me?

There is a bewildering range of tripods on the market ranging from the cheap-and-cheerful to the unaffordable. Somewhere within that range will be something for you.

There are a number of factors that you should consider when choosing a tripod:

Leg construction.

Aluminium and Carbon Fibre are the two main materials used here, with the latter being roughly double the cost of the metallic option. For the extra cost however, you get a weight reduction of around a third and increased rigidity. If you are going to be lugging it long distances I would recommend going for Carbon.

Leg locks are normally either twist-lock or lever type as shown below.

Gitzo carbon leg lock

Gitzo carbon leg lock

Giottos aluminium leg lock

Giottos aluminium leg lock

With the lever type you are more certain that you have the legs securely locked but the twist type work fine once you get used to them.

Height range

You should look to get a tripod that will allow you to use it effectively when standing up; so if you’re 6 feet tall, don’t waste your time buying a 5 foot tripod. Remember also that if it has a central column that can be raised, this will introduce some instability to the setup and will have an adverse effect on your images.

I would also recommend getting one that will go flat to the ground. Getting low down and seeing the world from a different perspective will really improve your photography.

Weight of kit you need to support

If you have a compact camera your needs are going to be very different to someone with a pro-series dSLR and lens, which could easily weigh in at 3kg. All tripods will have a maximum weight limit but, so well as taking this into account, you should err on the side of caution and go for the more substantial option if unsure.

Other things to consider

Some tripods (and heads) have a built-in spirit level that will assist you in getting your horizons straight. This is particularly useful when working low down when it is difficult to look through the viewfinder or see the rear LCD screen.

Most tripods have legs that have either three or four sections. Like-for-like, the more sections, the smaller they will collapse down for storage.

Rubber feet are the norm but you may opt for metal spikes that give better stability in muddy ir icy conditions. A number of models come with rubber as standard with spikes as an optional extra.

What type of head should I get?

Never buy a tripod with an integral head. The screw threads on tripods are universal so you can mix-and-match tripods and heads. There are many types to choose from – here are some examples:

Pan and tilt

Pan and tilt head

Pan and tilt head

Pan and tilt heads allow you to change horizontal and vertical adjustments independently; useful if you are doing panoramas and don’t want to change the vertical adjustment.

Ball Head

Ball Head

Ball head

Ball heads move in all directions once you have released them, but mean that you have only one adjustment to turn rather than the two you get with a pan and tilt.

Specialist heads

Manfrotto ‘Joystick’

The ‘Joystick’ head (from Manfrotto) uses a grip-release in combination with a ball joint to give a quick and easy way of changing the camera angle in all directions.

Wimberly II head for telephoto lenses

Gimbal style heads such as the ‘Wimberley’ shown in the video below, are the best way to use a long/prime telephoto lens from 300mm upwards.

Summary

  • Don’t buy on-line unless you know exactly what you are going to get. Go to a shop with a large selection of makes/ranges to get good advice and can ‘touch and feel’ the product
  • If you buy a cheap flimsy tripod you will regret it and will have wasted your money. Invest in a good one first off and it will give you years of good service.
  • Avoid any tripods with plastic fittings – they won’t last
  • Buy the heaviest that you can comfortably carry (and afford)
  • Get the right tripod head for the job

 

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Get Creative with type in CS5!

Continuing our theme of creative type …..

In my previous blog I showed you how to create type filled with an image and promised I would continue with the next step of adding further enhancements such as a stroke (key line/border), outer and inner shadows etc. So here is how it’s done……..

1) Firstly, let’s take an image and process it as before, merging the layers so that we only have type sitting on a transparent (indicated by the chequered pattern) background layer

Golden flowers start image

2) In the Layer palette, double-click on the text layer and an additional box will appear. At the top on the left hand side under the word “Style” you will see that it defaults to “Blending Options Default”, which will be highlighted in blue. Below this  are a number of styles from which you can choose and then tweak as desired.

3) Click on the one at the bottom that says “Stroke”. A new dialogue box will appear on the right hand side.

Any colour stroke may be added. I often like to chose either plain black or pick a colour from the image itself to ensure  co-ordination.

4) The next thing to do is experiment with the settings within each of the dialogue boxes. I like to use thin strokes around images as they look smarter (something between 1 and 10 pixels dependent upon the size of the original image). If you want a bold look to make the wording really stand out then go as high as you need.

Adding a stroke

Herewith the settings I used for the above image.

The “Stroke” box in detail

5) Now select the drop shadow on the left hand side. Again you can choose any colour of shadow that you want, the angle, the profile, the opacity and more! My favourite setting for the angle is about 130 degrees which will drop the shadow to the South East side.

Adding a drop shadow

6) Now add the bevel and emboss (One of the most impressive I think is the inner bevel set on the chisel hard setting)

Adding an inner bevel, chisel hard and contour shape of your choice

7) Try changing the contour and an amazing array of new effects will be produced.

Changing the profile

As you have probably already deducted I have only shown a few of the settings so far. There are many more to check out and experiment with: Colour, Gradient and Colour overlays etc. We’ll use some of these on another blog.

If you do have any questions about any of these tutorials please do feel free to give us a call or why not book up on one of our Photoshop courses and improve your skills the fast track method.

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