Sunday, 29 June 2014

Devil's Dyke, Newmarket

It seems that Ann Miles has beaten me to posting some pictures from today's rather damp RPS Nature Group outing to Devil's Dyke.  We managed about an hour and a half before the heavens opened, at which point we all trudged back to the car for an early lunch.

This was my first chance to play with two new toys: a 5DmkIII body and a 100/2.8L macro lens.  Not the easiest of conditions (it was blowing quite a lot as well as raining) but definitely a reasonable test for the new equipment.  The pictures aren't great by any means, but I'm astonished by the high-ISO behaviour of the new camera body: all these images were taken at ISO 1250 or thereabouts in order to try and stop motion blur.  Very impressive performance, and the new lens is razor sharp too.

Saturday, 28 June 2014


Waiting was taken in the centre of Reykjavik last July.  My eye was caught by a lady sitting in the window of an old-fashioned café with its name etched into the glass.

This is the original image straight from the camera.  There was quite a bit of Photoshop cloning work to remove the person in the background and the camera on the table.  I also removed some superfluous reflections in the window and an up-turned flower pot at the bottom.  This was followed by monochrome conversion in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 and toning in Nik Colour Efex Pro 4.  Just like an old-fashioned darkroom print, this image also required significant amounts of dodging and burning in order to bring out the lettering etched into the glass.  Canon 5DmkII. 70-200/2.8L mkII, 1/160s @ f/8, ISO400.

#NikSoftware #SilverEfexPro #ColorEfexPro

Friday, 27 June 2014

Lens Calibration (the proper way)

Readers of this blog might remember that I had focus problems in Iceland as a result of buying new equipment immediately before going on holiday.  Keen not to repeat the same mistake two years in a row I decided to splash out on a Spyder LensCal.  A simple piece of kit, which in principle should be simple to use.

That's the theory, anyway.  The device comes with a 1/4" mounting, so it's easy to fix it to a tripod.  That's the good news.  What's not quite so good is that the spirit level isn't accurate; and, more importantly, the focusing centre of the target is not directly above the mounting point.  This makes it very difficult to ensure that the camera and the LensCal target are parallel: this is crucial, as any rotation will invalidate the calibration results.

In the end I decided to think laterally (literally!) and put the LensCal on a focusing rail mounted sideways.  This allowed me to shift the target until the centre was directly above the tripod column, thereby making alignment much easier.  Even so there was no clear way to ensure that the target and the sensor planes were parallel other than by eye.  Another minor flaw in the target which I bought related to the alignment of the focus target and the diagonal "ruler".  The whole point of the system is that the "0" line is in exactly the same plane as the focus target.  On my LensCal this wasn't true, so I had to pad the ruler support slightly in order to make everything exact.  Being an anally-retentive engineer can be a bit of a pain sometimes...

I tried checking the focus calibration on the back screen of the camera, but this proved to be quite tricky - especially with the slower lenses.  As is shown in the picture above, the easy solution was to tether the camera to a laptop running Lightroom as this allowed me to view each captured image at 100% or 200% in order to check focus accuracy.

This is what the target should look like when set up properly.  The camera focuses on the central square, and the diagonal ruler indicates whether the auto-focus system is front- or back-focusing.

Zooming in, this is what the target looks like if the lens is front-focusing.  It's clear that the ruler in front of the target is in sharper focus compared to behind it.  A quick positive correction to the camera calibration fixes this immediately.

The same image with micro-focus adjustment applied.  It is easy to fall into the trap of checking the two "1" values and ensuring that they are equally soft.  Because of the laws of physics, the area of good focus extends further behind the focal plane than it does in front of it, meaning that the area behind the "0" line will tend to appear sharper than that in front.

#Spyder #LensCal

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Cromer Hoodie

Cromer Hoodie was taken in Cromer (now there's a surprise!) on a cold morning in June.  It was one of those shots where having a very wide lens allowed me to take a candid picture while the person in the eponymous hoodie thought I was really photographing the pier.

Here is the original image straight out of the camera.  After the removal of distractions (my wife and dog!) in Photoshop, the image was tone-mapped in Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 in order to give the gritty and slightly surreal feel.  Canon 5DmkII, 17-40/4L, 1/400s @ f/11, ISO400.

I don't know about anyone else, but I seem to have a habit of taking cock-eyed pictures.  What's really interesting is that they're always cock-eyed by the same amount!

#NikSoftware #HDREfexPro

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Waiting Patiently

Waiting Patiently was taken in an old-fashioned seaside café in Sea Palling.  It was December and very cold, and we'd gone inside to grab a mug of hot tea and a bacon butty.  I was confronted with mother and son eating in glum silence opposite each other, with an extremely expectant Lakeland Terrier looking on.  I had one chance to take the picture, so it was a question of very rapidly choosing some camera settings and firing the shutter before they realised what was happening.

This is the original image, straight from the camera.  It was processed in a mixture of Photoshop (a bit of cropping and cloning in the background) and Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.  Canon 5DmkII, 17-40/4L, 1/25s @ f/5.6, ISO1600.

#NikSoftware #SilverEfexPro

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Queen of Hearts

Reading David Cooke's recent accounts of how some of his exhibition acceptances were created has been fascinating, and they are well worth reading.  Completely coincidentally, a few days ago I was asked by Roger Hance if I could give him a selection of images which had been successful in exhibitions, along with the original unprocessed file and its history, for a talk he was putting together.  So often we only concentrate on the finished article, so it's always good to go back and discover the "sow's ear" which eventually resulted in the "silk purse" with which everyone is familiar.  David's articles and Roger's request have inspired me to do the same for occasional blog postings, so here goes.

To kick off, I thought I'd give the story behind Queen of Hearts - one of my most successful pictures, which has recently accepted into the RPS Members' Biennial and for publication in Portfolio Three.  It was taken in Whitby outside Botham's, my favourite bakery in the entire world.  Because I had the dog with me I was banned from entering the shop, so had to wait outside while my family went in to buy stuff for lunch.  The shop assistant started to replenish the stock in the window, and I had a few seconds in which to take a picture.

The lens was right up against the glass in order to reduce reflections, but even so - if you look carefully - you can see the tell-tale outline of Amber, my yellow Labrador, in the bottom left hand corner of the picture (see inset).

This is the original image straight out of the camera.  It was processed in a mixture of Photoshop and Nik Colour Efex.  Canon 5DmkII, EF 15 f/2.8 fisheye, 1/40s @ f/11, ISO400.

#NikSoftware #ColorEfexPro

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Gavin Hoey "Camera Shake-Up"

Last Sunday saw a joint meeting between the RPS East Anglia Region and the Eastern Digital Centre (the local arm of the Digital Imaging Group).  We were visited by Gavin Hoey, who provided an extremely entertaining and educational day for a large and appreciative audience.

John Margetts, who runs the Eastern Digital Centre, kicking off the day.

Part of the day involved Gavin setting certain challenges for the audience.

Gavin assessing the results of one of his challenges.

Eric, Gavin's trusty video operator.

A good time was had by all - including Gavin, I hope.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Felbrigg Hall

We'd driven past Felbrigg Hall, just south of Cromer, on many occasions but never actually visited the place.  Time to add another National Trust property to my collection.  As before, the majority of the interiors are 3-shot HDRs taken hand-held at ISO 3200 or thereabouts on a Canon 5DmkII.  The exceptions are the "whole body bath experience" (i.e. the thing that looks like a giant wellington boot) and the copper pans, both of which were handled in a single shot.

I have to keep pinching myself that the National Trust now allows photography in its buildings, but I'm very glad they do.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Norfolk Monochrome Miscellany

A random set of pictures from Cromer and Blakeney for which monochrome treatment seemed appropriate.  First a few from Cromer on a sunny afternoon.

Some of the "nautical" characters from Blakeney.

The final picture clearly demonstrates that Labradors are natural water dogs - something I knew already from personal experience...