Beginning Photography

The musings of a budding photographer

Archive for December 2009

Field in the mist

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One from a few days ago that I only just got around to processing.

There are two main difficulties to overcome when shooting this kind of image. The first is white balance, the second is exposure.

White balance is tricky as the camera will presume all the snow in the image is actually a mid-gray colour and thus make your image look too blue. There are two solutions. One, create a custom white balance by taking an image of an 18% gray card just before taking the photo. The other, shoot RAW and adjust white balance later in software. Two requires more effort but is easier to get right so that’s the option I tend to go for. I shoot raw anyway as I prefer to keep contrast as low as possible, again corrected for in software later.

Exposure is tricky simply due to the scene. It’s all white and bright even when it’s dull so the camera will tend to underexpose. In conditions like this you may need to over expose by 2 stops or more from the camera meter reading.

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Written by James

December 31, 2009 at 7:17 pm

Extra Processing: Edges

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The weather today has been miserable: throwing it down with rain, crappy light, not inspirational at all. Wanting to stay creative to some extent I decided to have a play with photoshop and see what I could learn. The result, well, have a look below.

It certainly sheds new light on this image and I can see how this could get addictive.

The method itself is relatively simple. Having opened the image in photoshop open up the channels palete and view the red, green and blue channels individually to see which offers the most contrast. Having chosen the best channel duplicate it. Next, working with the duplicated channel, select “filter – stylise – find edges”. The image will become something resembling a line drawing. Choose image – adjustments – levels and bring up the blacks to the point where the image looks its best. Choose whether or not to apply any sharpening, delete the original channels leaving just the new one, and save the file. Bobs ya uncle, one line drawing from a photograph.

Written by James

December 30, 2009 at 8:25 pm

My 52

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My 52, a challenge for the coming year. A 52 is simple in concept, one image a week that relates to a theme chosen at random taken specifically for the challenge. So how exactly does it work? Well, I’m joining a number of people from the talkphotography forums for the challenge, each of us working to the same theme chosen at random each week from a pool of about 300 or so.

There are no real rules for a 52 since it is a personal challenge, but I intend to try to complete all weeks and I hope to get something with artistic merit from each rather than a simple snapshot to meet the theme. Undoubedly this may be hard if not impossible in some weeks due to other commitments so I won’t stress too much if I miss a week, I may return to an uncompleted week when I have time.

I will be posting all my “52” entries here, with a link to my own thread on talkphotography so you can check out other responses.

Written by James

December 30, 2009 at 11:22 am

Signet and Swan

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Wildlife photography is still untested water for me. Limited as I am to a 55mm lens it’s not easy to get close enough to anything that can move away. Wandering around the iced lake a couple of days ago however I thought I had the perfect opportunity, 4 swans, 2 adults and 2 signets came flying in and after a bit of a crash landing were fairly close to the bank. Not quite as close as I would have liked, but I managed to get the following.

This first one is my favourite, the detail in the wings is fantastic. In fact, it’s so good I’m going to post a crop to show you 😀

The second one is an example of my frustration. I would have loved to isolate a single swan against the dark blue of the ice, but couldn’t get there. Then again, a nice image is a nice image even if it’s not the one you were after.

Written by James

December 28, 2009 at 8:32 pm

Posted in Photography, Photos

Fun with water

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Another new technique today. Well, I say today, but I spent an hour at it last night and another couple of hours at it again today. Getting focus is HARD. The project: Water drops.

The technique is simplicity itself. Put water in a container, get something to drip water into it (in this case a tap), turn on the flash and snap away. The difficulties lie in two areas. Timing and focus. I’m shooting with a 55mm lens so I have to get in very close, making depth of field very small, probably nore more than 3 or 4mm. The drop is the imporant part, so it has to be in the focus plane. But, you can’t see where that is until the drop hits the water. The result is that you end up taking about 100 photos to get one good one.

The other issue is of course timing, water drops don’t last very long. Ideally this would be done in sunlight for a faster shutter speed and with a longer lens. The results wouldn’t be any better, but it would take less time to get a good one. This particular one is the only one with the cool reflection which is why it’s my favourite.

I’ve posted this one as a bit of an experiment, a slightly larger size image. If it looks crap I’ll go back to my normal size.

Written by James

December 28, 2009 at 3:36 pm

Going with the flow

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A new technique for me today. With the local reservoir/lake iced over I journeyed out hoping for some nice landscape shots. I got a couple, but that’s not what you get to see here today. Instead we have a couple of takes on flowing water. At one end of the reservoir is an overflow which feeds down over rocks creating a rapids/waterfall. The water is flowing fast enough that a very high shutter speed is needed to freeze the action, with a blurred shot still being possible hand held. Here are my attempts at both.

In this first we have a shutter speed 1/640th of a second and still we see a little motion blur. I love the effect.


In this second image I’ve gone all out to freeze the motion, shutter speed at 1/2500.

In this final image I’ve allowed the motion to blur fully, with a shutter speed of 1/25.

Which you prefer depends on taste. They all look stunning on a black background, so much so that I’m now thinking of introducing a photo section with a black background to better show these images off. Let me know which you prefer.

Written by James

December 26, 2009 at 2:33 pm

More Trees

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Last trees for a while I promise, but these are my best to date I think. The chimney in the landscape shot depends on taste I think, I quite like it as it gives balance so I left it in here but I also have a version with the chimney removed for a purer look.

I did make a mistake with these images, as you can see the floor is covered with snow and it was freezing so I was wearing my gloves and inadvertantly nudged the ISO setting to 800. Fortunately the noise was only in the sky and was easy to remove, a lucky escape as these are my best landscape/tree images to date.

I can’t decide on a favourite, I like the idea of the portrait shot as a poster print, but the landscape shot looks perfect for a nice print. A nice black mount would set both off nicely I think.


Edit:  A quick note. I spent a bit of time getting rid of the chimney in the first image and it’s stunning, much better than I expected. I’m leaving this post as is, but if anyone wants to see the no chimney shot have a look at

Written by James

December 21, 2009 at 11:02 pm

Posted in Photography, Photos