Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Photo BTS Tuesday!

This post is basically my way of escaping revision! I'm sat in my room (where I've been for what seems like days...without leaving) surrounded by lecture notes. Luckily for you (depending on how lucky you feel about reading a random blog post) my general disinterest in aquatic vertebrate respiratory systems has brought you another Photo BTS.

I took this image a little while back at Trow Point, South Shields on the North East Coast. The shot was made a short while after the sun came up, which gave that lovely soft and wrapping light along with the tell tale vibrant colours of dawn. I was really attracted to the light on the water this morning, especially in the shallows right at the water's edge. One thing I love about this bay is the textured rocks that vary in size and form and look great through the mistiness of moving waves.

Framing this image took some thought as I felt placing the horizon directly on a third lent a slightly unbalanced feeling to the picture; it gave me a fairly blank and distracting area of blue sky at the very top of the frame and I lost some foreground interest in the yellow rock. I opted to lower the camera slightly, putting the horizon a little more towards the centre

 As seems to be the way with my “golden hour” shoots, something was bound to go wrong. Everything was going swimmingly (not literally I’m thankful to say) until a random group of school lads turned up out of nowhere and began hurling rocks at each other on the platform. We’re talking 6am here people, most 14 year olds would I had presumed have still been in bed, rationing every blissful second of unconsciousness before a day at school (it was a Monday If I remember) and yet here they were, quite happily dodging missiles right where I didn’t want them; in the middle of my viewfinder… I managed to grab a few shots in between feigned screams of pain (hence the image you see here) and then with as little subtlety as I could possible I moved forward to the waterline and waited for either a sharp blow to the back of the head with one of those wonderfully textured rocks or for them to get the message. Thankfully they got the message!

Post processing

Very little was done to this image in Photoshop. I manually merged 2 of the bracketed exposures to increase detail in the highlights and worked on the foreground almost entirely in Camera Raw. Firstly I used ACR’s Grad Filter tool to brighten the foreground rocks by around half a stop and then used the Adjustment Brush to add some localised contrast and clarity. As with all my images the first step was to add an automatic camera/lens profile within ACR. This made the raw file look far better in a single click. I also added some slight sharpening, utilizing a high value on the Masking slider to avoid bringing out noise in the flat tones such as the surface of the water.

To merge the exposures I simply opened both images in Photoshop, copying the ‘sky’ file on top of the exposure for the foreground (Ctrl (Command for Mac) + A and then Ctrl + V) I then used the Quick Selection Tool to select the sky and headed to the ‘Refine Edge’ control, where I checked the ‘Smart Radius’ box and moved the slider to around 3 pixels. This gave me a smoother blend of the two images. Adding a layer mask immediately ‘masked-in’ the foreground image and that was it; I had a merge of the sky exposure and the brighter file for the ground.  I guess I could have tone mapped the files but didn’t feel HDR would give me the look I was after in this case; I wanted something more subtle.
So there you are – a quick lesson in manual image blending and how to avoid being stoned to death by feral children at dawn. Afterwards they just sat down and watched the sun rise, which considering their chavvy nature seemed a little out of character to me!  Awww….
Check back next time J
See ya  

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Photo BTS Sunday!!

This blog has been criminally neglected of late, for which I apologise profusely. In an effort to keep things active here I’m going to try a new approach, in the shape of Photo BTS (behind-the-scenes) post. These will (hopefully) be posted at least weekly and will just be a quick walk through of the story behind on of my images; what the conditions were like, what challenges there were and any silly little anecdotes that seem appropriate at the time. I’m not saying that’s all I’ll post from now one but it’s something that should keep the cobwebs at bay J

So here’s the first of the series. This image was shot only a couple of weeks ago in the Lake District, near Ullswater. The hill is actually known as Round How and forms one of the shores of Ullswater itself. I was standing in a field near the entrance to the path leading to the waterfall Aira Force, which is the main thing we’d come to see. I took some images in this direction on the way in but none were exceptionally awe inspiring. After visiting the waterfall however, when we passed the same spot I noticed that the light was significantly warmer and that there was a slight mist hanging over the valley. Since the plan was to head home (we had a long drive ahead!) I didn’t really have much time to set everything up again and so had to commit to the cringe-worthy task of resting the camera on a wall, which was far from stable. I had my tripod with me but it had walked off along with a family member and was already half way back to the car! I shot a quick series of images, varying the focal length as I went. I immediately knew that the tree in the foreground had to be part of the composition and by using the long end of my 17-85mm zoom (which works out as 136mm in 35mm terms) perspective was compressed slightly which firmly placed that tree into the scene, providing a sense of depth. The rain clouds were rolling in which gave that biblical sky and the mist picked up the colour of the light, bathing the landscape in a golden glow. The painful thing was I could foresee things getting even more dramatic in the following 30 minutes or so, by which time I knew I’d be back in the car and driving away from it all! However, after about 10 minutes the light started to fade and that rain became the dominant feature of the scene, which acted as a strong motivation to pack up and move on.

I had my camera set to Cloudy White Balance but when reviewing them later the colours didn’t seem as warm as I remembered them so I increased Colour temperature in Camera Raw and added a little Magenta using the Tint slider.

This shot was more about luck than careful planning. Where possible I love to be able to plan everything before a shoot, but I think that’s more to do with peace of mind; sometimes a scene just presents itself and you have to work quickly to catch ‘the moment.’ Looking at this picture you’d think the light was a gift from heaven but it was actually very short-lived and we barely made it to the car without getting soaked. As always say, the Lakes isn’t the Lakes for nothing…all that water had to come from somewhere!

Camera: Canon EOS 7D

Lens: 17-85mm

Filters:  Polarizer, ND Grad


Ok so there you have it, the first Photo BTS (which, I admit, does sound a little like a fungal infection) and hopefully I’ll keep on track and rack out a few more over the next little while.

Stay tuned J   

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

My recent publications

Sorry for yet another absence but things have been sort of hectic! My aim is to get a few more posts rolled out before I head back to Uni so lets just keep our fingers crossed :)

If you want to read more about my photography I've been featured in a couple of publications this month. Firstly several of my images have featured in Amateur Photographer Magazine this week (wk beginning 25.08.2012) where I gained the Editor's Choice in the Reader Spotlight pages. This is the third time I've been in the Spotlight so it's nice see my shots there again.

Also I've written a short landscape photography masterclass for North East Life Magazine (http://northeast.greatbritishlife.co.uk) in their September issue. Here I just cover the basics from composition and lighting to recommended camera settings and selected, freely available software. If you're new to photography and live in or around the NE of England, you might want to pick up a copy. You also get to see a wonderful mug-shot of me looking like death itself on an early morning coastal shoot!

So yeah, I'll truly make an effort to put some Time aside for the sole purpose of blogging ")


Monday, 2 July 2012

Heyy...I'm still alive! (from Scotland)

Ok so first of all I’d like to apologise for my absence of late; I’ve just been crazy busy with just about everything! I’m pretty sure I promised a post about my Farne Islands visit about two years ago but I will get there eventually (even though nobody cares now…including me)

Anyway, I’m away from home at the moment (I’m currently sat writing this in a small cottage about a stone’s throw from the England/ Scotland Border.) I’m staring out of my bedroom window at a wonderful, beautiful, wet, stunningly secluded, miserable, relaxing, depressing view of our private garden and wishing either the weather would improve, or the world would just go ahead and end as it’s been promising to do for weeks! 

I’m determined not to let the rain and wind (and lighting and flooding and mudslides!) stop my picture-taking however; I think it’ll be good practise to shoot in less-than-ideal conditions…damn my optimistic nature J I did manage to grab some nice (warm) shots the other evening when there was a dusk to speak of, so at least I got them in the bag early on (see below.)

I’m certainly not travelling light though; the relative closeness to home provided too many gear temptations and I can’t think of anything I’ve left behind! I’ve got both EOS digital bodies with me (my 450D and 7D) as well as my 10-20, 17-85, 70-200, 50 and 35-70mm lenses, plus a flash, radio triggers etc. and I’m hauling it all around in my Lowepro Vertex 200AW. I’m hoping to go back to the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens before we head home and we’re here ‘till Saturday so hopefully I’ll come back with some “Keepers.”

I’ll keep you all posted when possible…J   
Peter x

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Shooting the blossom

First of all I’d just like to apologise for my recent absence, but I have been kinda’ snowed under with work, so…sorry! Unfortunately, the aforementioned work has also prevented me from getting out much with my camera, although I made a real effort the other day to make it up to the University Botanic Gardens, Durham to shoot another seasonal must…the blossom. I pretty much missed it last year and almost did again; a lot of the stuff had already fallen, no thanks to the recent spell of rain and wind we’ve experienced in Britain of late. There was just enough left on the trees to capture some reasonable, colourful close-ups. There’s a lovely area of these gardens called the Japanese Friendship Garden that’s surrounded by blossom at this time of year and while the trees weren’t as full as they might have been a week or so back, this was the first place I headed.

I had intended to shoot some wide-angle images, taking in a broad expanse of the garden, with the vibrant pinks and reds as the focal point. However, the slightly bare-looking trees didn’t seem to make a wide focal length appropriate. I therefore shot all afternoon on my 70-200mm optic, concentrating on isolating individual flowers and branches. Most of these shots were made racked-out at 200mm and wide-open at f/2.8 to throw the backgrounds out-of-focus. The large aperture also allowed me to handhold the shots, which although not ideal, was necessary due to my tripod not extending tall enough to shoot the hanging branches straight on. I composed these examples so that the backgrounds consisted of bold colours to compliment and/or contrast with the blossom. Most of the time I arranged the shots so that other blossom-filled trees were visible as a blur of complimenting colour. For the final shot here, I was shooting from a kneeling position, near the ground, with the bright blue sky behind. Ironically this image was taken in the car park, before driving away; the others were carefully framed and well thought-through, while this was basically a snapshot…click and go! It also happens to be one of my favourites from the shoot. 

f there’s one bit of advice I can convey about shooting boldly-coloured plant life such as blossom, it’s to do so under overcast lighting; sun spots and dappled light just ruin the atmosphere completely. The diffused light from the cloudy sky is perfectly soft and ‘wrap-around’, and is nature’s very own soft-box, studio light. The colours will be far more saturated than under direct sunlight to, but without looking false; they’ll be natural! I also like to underexpose slightly in these circumstances, which did here buy about 1 stop, as this further adds the “punchiness” of the tones.     

That’s all folks...!

I’ll try and post a bit more regularly than once every decade from now on J

Peter  x

Friday, 23 March 2012

Adobe announces Photoshop CS6 Beta!

Big news! Adobe finally launched the beta version of the brand new Photoshop CS6. It was expected to be released this year and it proves not be a disappointment! I guess there’s always going to be a lot of hype when Adobe launch a new product, but Photoshop seems to be the software people like to see new versions of the most- after all it’s  for designers as much as photographers. After CS5 was released I kinda’ wondered what more Adobe could do with the program, it appeared to have had a complete overhaul from CS4; new lens correction feature, superlative selection tools, crazy awesome Photomerge, brand new built-in HDR tool complete with one of my favourites, HDR toning etc., etc. Well I went ahead and downloaded the beta version of CS6 to see what it has on offer over its predecessor- and knowing Adobe, they’ll completely destroy my doubts about the limited scope for improvements! Let’s take a look…

Brand-new, totally awesome Camera Raw

Since I learned how to use it properly I’ve fallen in love with ACR! I never thought it possible, but with version 6 I could virtually edit from start to finish right inside that window without leaving and diving into ‘proper’ Photoshop. The range of sliders and adjustments was really very impressive and now in the new Camera Raw 7 things have gone even further. When you open up an un-edited RAW file (or one that has been edited in version 6 but run through Photoshop’s update algorithm) you’ll see a same-but-different window. Some sliders you’ll recognise, others are totally new. Basically what Adobe has done is take the new Develop module out of Lightroom 4 and placed it here; after all, the Develop window is Camera Raw in all but naming. What they’ve done is slightly rearrange the sliders into a more usable order and add new sliders such as Highlights, Shadows and Whites that control the shadows, highlights and mid-tones independently. Noticeably many of the sliders are now set to the middle by default, so you can dial in a negative number, which wasn’t possible in ACR6. The Clarity, Vibrance and Saturation sliders are all still in the same place but can I just say that the way Clarity now works is great. This is by far my favourite tool in ACR anyway, but the look it gives your photos here is far more natural and much less ‘processed.’ Having given shunting it all the way to 100 a try I’m happy to report that in many cases this will be a more-than- acceptable practise.

Another thing I’m loving (terrible grammar I know!)is the re-designed adjustment brush. Now you can easily make selective applications of Noise Reduction and even White Balance/Tint! This is gonna prove unbelievably useful for so many people is so many situations that I think it will become a favourite amongst photographers who, for example, are dealing with varying lighting conditions out on location. The NR option is huge for me as someone who has been shooting a lot of HDR images of interiors for commercial uses; HDR inevitably produces noise and the ability to apply selective NR to flat areas when editing the original tone-mapped TIFFs, without opening two documents in regular PS is a real time and effort saver. These sliders are also available through the Graduated filter, which means reducing noise in the flat tones of a sky whilst simultaneously darkening it, kills two birds with one stone. All good J

Content Aware Patch
It was only a matter of time before they grouped these two tools together. The patch tool works great a lot of the time, but by making it content-aware improves the overall integration of the patched area, making it far less noticeable. Again this will make it easier to patch in tricky areas with complex patterns etc. It works in exactly the same way as the regular patch tool of Photoshops past but is just that bit more reliable; a predictable but useful addition.

New 3D- less clunky and equally useless for most folk!
Ok that’s a bit unfair, but let’s face it- most photographers won’t be using the 3D features in any version of PS. For designers and the like though the new 3D functionality will make your lives less complicated; less complex panels, a new slick look and no more slightly suggestive French words that nobody understands! Corey Barker will know what I mean J There’s also a new dedicated ‘Type’ tab on the main menu that makes accessing the type tools and creating paragraphs etc. quicker. You can extrude a 3D mesh from this menu too.
'Edge Smoothing’ in HDR Pro
Nothing huge but something I’m quite keen on at first glance- this adds a smoothing effect whilst boosting the detail in the image. This gives a fancy ethereal look that I’m not sure is intentional but can be cool. I need to spend more time with this one…
Live brush size/hardness preview!
I punched the air when I came across this one… you can change the brush settings using Control>click (Command>click for Mac users) and a dialogue stays live for the duration telling you your current settings. It’s not a massive alteration but one that makes the whole shortcut more useful. I always like to know my current brush status, particularly the hardness, as a value and before I had to pop up to the brush panel at the top of the screen, which personally I found a bit maddening. No more!

Content Aware move tool
Probably won’t be using this in a hurry but someone will. It works using the regular Content Aware function to allow you to move elements of your image whilst filling in the space left behind. I plan to have a play around with it and see what it’s capable of…
Live crop tool dimensions
Handily it is now possible to alter the dimensions that you want to crop your photos to, whilst looking at the changes live; you can choose a set of dimensions from the drop-down as usual and select a new setting at any point, without having to commit to the current settings and undo if you’re unhappy. Also, as a great composition aid you can select an overly showing not just the Rule of Thirds but also the Golden Ratio/Golden Spiral illustration for accurate post-capture framing.

…To name but a few! These aren’t necessarily the biggest updates Adobe is touting, but they are the ones that mean the most to me. I’ll be interested to see if anything else is added before the final version of CS6 ships later this year J
Disclaimer: I am aware that this blog is named Young, Keen and Penniless and so many of you may be thinking “How can he afford such an expensive piece of software?” Well the truth is I can’t, but I am a student and so through Student Expressware, bought CS5 Extended for 80% off! I’m therefore able to upgrade to CS6 when it becomes fully available. Thought you ought to know!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

A chance encounter!

I spent the afternoon back up on Waldridge Fell today (for the record I do visit places other than the Fell!) and was presented with a fairly nice dusk- nothing dramatic but the light was soft. To be honest I just wanted to get out of the house. You see, we’re getting a new roof and so are boxed in by scaffolding, which I can cope with, but the continuous stream of choking dust and plaster floating into my room from the attic is a bit too much - the whole thing is like something out of a 'Carry On' film where I seem to be 'a little plastered..' No?...Oh well, the point is I wanted some fresh air, which I got because the wind was freezing! Naturally I had landscapes in mind because the other great thing about this location is  the heavy covering of heather, which provides an interesting foreground all year round, even if it’s bare twigs.

I decided on the 10-20mm lens to make the most of this element, whilst taking in the interesting and very threatening cloud formations in the sky. To avoid ‘losing’ some of the more distant elements in the scenes (which can so often happen when shooting out a wide focal length such as 10mm ) I set up my tripod without extending the legs too far, which gave me a low shooting angle. This allowed me to get up close to the heather and accentuate its size. For some reason I still haven’t found time to buy a 77mm adaptor ring so couldn’t easily use my ND grad - I would have had to hand-hold them in front of the lens which I hate doing, and so I bracketed my exposures for each image with 3 frames per photo at around 2 stops apart.

With some seemingly successful ‘scapes’ in the bag I moved on. During the return trip to the car I found something interesting on the path in front of me. At first I thought it might be something unspeakable that a random dog had left behind as a gift, but on closer inspection I could tell it was two toads1. I can’t recall seeing toads this close up in the wild before so quickly switched optics to the 70-200. I'm not entirely sure what the pair were doing but can only assume that they were mating - I’m no amphibian expert but that was the easy conclusion to draw! I didn’t know how timid they’d be and so kept my distance to start with, gradually moving closer firing bursts of images as I went. I suspect they must have been ‘playing dead’ or something similar because they allowed me I closer than I would have expected. Having managed to secure some ‘keepers’, I changed technique and re-fitted the wide-angle with the aim of capturing some environmental portraits. I didn’t want to push my luck by getting too close, as they could’ve easily leapt into the undergrowth by the side of the path and I’d have lost them. Nor did I want to stress them unnecessarily and therefore shot at the longest end of the lens, to fill the frame enough for a successful composition. Honestly, they seemed completely un-fazed by the experience of having a nosy photographer lie on the ground and stick an ultra-wide in their faces J  I spent about 20 minutes with the couple before leaving them to whatever it is they were doing. I was a bit disgruntled by the loud-mouthed guy and the dog with attention deficit syndrome that passed me a while later - since I’d been so careful not to disturb the animals, I had visions of the canine ‘making friends’ with them using his incisors.
I had to shoot all the way up at ISO2000 to keep these hand-held shots blur-free

Shooting down low with a wide-angle lens showed the toads in their environment

Anyway, it was an experience and I’m happy I stumbled across a fascinating event of nature. There’s nothing quite like your first amphibian porn shoot! Ehhemm…

Camera settings

My main priority was ensuring I got some sharp images, free of camera shake and so set my ISO to 800 as a starting point and an aperture of f/4. Once I was confident the toads weren’t going to flee, I began to play with settings as f/4 and at such a close focussing distance just wasn’t gonna cut it depth-of-field-wise. To keep both animals in focus I stopped down the lens in subtle increments all the way to f/11, bumping up the ISO accordingly; I needed an absolute minimum of 1/200sec shutter speed and that wasn’t taking the crop factor of my camera into account. In the end I used a max speed of ISO2000, which gave me a hand-hold-able speed of 1/400sec.

1 For those who care, the organisms here look to be Common Toads (species Bufo bufo) As I say, I’m no expert so if you think differently, please fill me in (with the info, not a blunt object…) J

Look out for some more shots from this trip coming soon on my flickr  x 

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Canon unveil the EOS 5D Mark 3 !!

So after much speculation and rumour Canon finally announced the 5D mark III which, I'm particularly enthusiastic to note, looks to be designed as pretty much a full frame 7D. Considering the release of the Nikon D800 and Canon's own 1DX, not to mention that the 5D mark II is nearly 4 years old, it is not surprising to see this newcomer.

Some key features include a 22mp full frame sensor, 1.04 million dot 3.2in LCD, improved AF, 100% viewfinder coverage, up to 6fps shooting, 61 point AF system, DIGIC 5+ processor, duel card slots (1x CF, 1x SD) built-in HDR mode, ISO 50-102,400 and of course full HD movies. Also borrowed from the EOS 1DX is a touch-sensitive rear control wheel.

It seems interesting that Canon has opted for 22MP rather than attempting to compete with the 36.3 MP of the Nikon D800, although when combined with the DIGIC 5+ processor this should make low-light photography one place where this camera will feel at home. Besides, for most people the 5760 x 3840 pixel files will suffice and the value still places the 5D III as Canon’s highest-res model to date. An added advantage is the significantly faster burst rate than the D800 possible making it attractive to a wider range of photographers (I can see it finding a place in the second-body slot of many wildlife/sports shooters- don’t forget the cropping possibilities.)

Whilst the spec may not be what some were expecting it will be interesting to see the reaction of the pro and semi-pro markets. It can probably be guaranteed that the new camera will be just as popular as its predecessor. Here’s an early Canon promo video:-

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

A quick HDR tutorial

Love it or hate it HDR photography has become a highly popular technique and is seen by many as an essential tool for getting the best from certain scenes. For quite a long time I wasn’t too keen on the HDR ‘look’ and often wondered why I would want to ‘ruin’ my images by processing them in that way.  I’ve come to realise however, that when the photographer has an in depth knowledge of how to use their software the results can be stunning. The only reason I hadn’t thought this way before was simply because I hadn’t seen any ‘good’ HDR samples. It’s easy to go in all guns blazing and HDR everything you see and while this is a good way to learn (you’ll make all of the mistakes early on!) it’s the reason the technique has got a bit of a bad name.
For those who have viewed my Flickr stream you’ll know that recently I’ve been trying my hand at interior, architectural photography and what I’ve become aware of is that if there’s one thing that HDR’s well- it’s low light shots inside a building with character. I’ve been exploring both old and new designs and one place I knew would be screaming for tone mapping is the auditorium of the Gala theatre in Durham City. It’s a modern building with a slightly futuristic plan and the auditorium is great mix of rustic and new. Since gaining permission took a little effort and I didn’t know if I’d be back any time soon I erred on the side of caution and took more images than less for each bracket. I was also on a time limit so made do with 5 exposures (it’s still better than three).
I merged the shots in Photoshop CS5’s Merge to HDR Pro software which is renowned for delivering nicely natural results; although this time I was looking for a something a bit more artistic. Since a few people have asked me how I process my HDR shots I thought I’d run through my workflow for the Gala auditorium shot from start to finish. So here goes:-
 I started my downloading the bracketed series onto an external hard drive (it’s better to merge from copies rather than originals as always to avoid corrupting your files) and since they were RAW files I accessed them through Adobe Bridge. I selected all five shots and went to Tools>Photoshop>Merge to HDR Pro.
This then gets Photoshop CS5 to merge all of the brackets into one image for tone mapping. After a while (and it can seem an age!) the HDR Pro dialogue pops up. As you can see the initial attempt PS made in its default settings doesn’t look that inspiring, but you’re presented with the series of sliders you can see here and we’re going to play with those in a moment.

Since I’ve already done the tone mapping for this image I saved all of the settings I chose as a preset; I called it Gala Auditorium1, so that I could call them all back later (which I guess came in kinda’ handy for this blog post!) Presets are awesome because they save you so much time playing with the sliders, trying to remember what you used before. I’ll often scroll through my list of presets and see how they look on a new image; even if they don’t work out of the box they may still get half of the work done for me.

I really was after bringing out all the little details in the wood panelling and the ceiling so here I’ve pushed the Detail slider all the way to 300% but compensated for the over-the-top look this could have given me by keeping the Radius and Strength sliders over to the left and pushing the Gamma to the right slightly to even out the balance of highlights and shadows. Speaking of these I brought out the shadows by pushing the shadow slider to 100 but also nudged the highlights to the right to keep a bit of overall contrast. I didn’t want to overdo things so kept the Saturation low and used a higher Vibrance amount to pick out the under-represented colours.

Lastly I did a quick S-Curves adjustment to kick the contrast a little further. That’s it for tone mapping- I hit ok and CS5 merged the shots for me.

The shot wasn’t quite there yet though- it was a bit flat and needed some more tweaking. For most of the editing in this case I used Adobe Camera Raw, applying some contrast using the Fill light and Blacks sliders and bringing out some more detail using Clarity and by sharpening. ACR’s adjustment brush came in handy for applying localised adjustments, whilst leaving other parts of the image untouched. I love sharpening here because you can really push things to the extreme without introducing any nasty halos and you can easily mask out any flat tones using the masking slider to avoid accentuating noise. There’s also the Detail slider here which can work wonders for bringing out textures such as in the panelling and the curtains around the stage. 

I then opened the image in regular Photoshop for some additional Levels, Curves and Colour Balance tweaks and for cropping. This time I chose a panoramic crop to emphasize the ‘ultra-wide’ feeling, using a 12in x 6in preset that I made. Since this was a theatre I thought it would be a nice touch to add a border above and below the image, simulating letterbox movie film dimensions (even though 12x6 isn’t officially a standard movie aspect ratio). I did this by expanding the canvas [Image>Canvas Size] and adding 15% to the Height field.

That’s it, done. There are plenty of other examples I could have shown you but this is as good as any! A lot of perfecting your HDR workflow and favourite ‘looks’ is down to experimentation and trial and error. I strongly recommend saving your settings as presets since you can always use these as a starting point for every image you tone map and you won’t have that frustrating experience of struggling to remember what you used before. There are a number of software packages to choose from- I just used Merge to HDR Pro because it comes with Photoshop. Why not try Photomatix or Nik software’s HDR Efex pro and see what you prefer?



Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Welcome! (and about this blog)

Hi there! My name is Peter Fenech, I'm 19 and a passionate photographer. I'm also new to blogging. I don't consider myself a photographic expert, but I certainly know more about imaging than blogging, so bear with me. Seriously, only a short while ago, if somebody told me they had a blog I would have advised them to see a doctor (assuming they had a mysterious wart or something equally hard to eradicate!) I first picked up a camera seriously about four years ago, after I completed a work experience at a professional photographer's (and family friend's) although I have enjoyed taking 'snaps' for as long as I can remember. I'm now on my second DSLR and have built up a system around my main photographic interests; landscapes and macro. For me there's nothing more satisfying than being up and out on location for a dawn landscape shoot, probably because I'm extremely antisocial and tourists are few and far between at 5am!
       Anyway, enough about me- what about the blog? Well it's mainly aimed at young people like myself, but is just as relevant for anybody with a shred of financial sense. As much as I love photography I, like many others like me I'd imagine, find my age somewhat limiting; I don't have the privilege of an executive job (or a hefty inheritance) and so financing my hobby can be quite difficult at times- and let's face it, if there's one thing you need as a photographer it's cash. All the same, people have often asked me how I still manage to get certain images without items of photo gear they thought essential and I always come back with the same answer- improvisation. I do think one of my strengths is that I actually enjoy getting creative with the equipment I do have, enabling me to confidently substitute the 'ideal' gear with something from my kit bag. Here I'll give away some of the useful tips and tricks I've either thought of myself or learned from other photographers, to help you get the shots you want, even if you find yourself at a 'equipmental' (if that's a word) disadvantage. Well that and other random stuff...! No matter if you're young, or just plain broke, you CAN keep on shooting. You just have to be keen!

Welcome to YKP...
Some quick examples of what I do

My favourite time to shoot is dawn

As you'll start to suspect I'm particularly fond of seascapes

Saturday, 14 January 2012

I finally got out of the house (I hate revision!)

I finally managed to get out and shoot a landscape in decent light the other day, jumping at the opportunity to head up to Waldridge Fell, near Chester-le-Street, County Durham (where I live) at dusk. I really underestimated the Fell at first, thinking that because it was only a few minutes in the car from home (and being open/flat) that there weren’t many in the way of photo opportunities. However, I’ve come to realise that this openness is actually a major strength- you get clear views of the landscape at both dawn and dusk. In particular I’m drawn to a small lake (actually it’s more of an over-sized pond!) that makes a great foreground feature no-matter what time you shoot. There is the added compositional element of a lone tree on one bank that can give your images a wonderfully peaceful, solitary feel, especially in low light. It doesn’t look like much when you first see it but it has provided me with what I believe are many successful landscapes. The low foliage around about 70% of the lake means clear, uncluttered photos and great minimalist reflections when the light is right; and on this occasion I was lucky in that it was close to the perfect sunset.
The sky was very clear which was quite disappointing at first since I obviously wanted to avoid including too much of a boring, blank expanse at the top of my pictures, although before long a few attractive clouds drifted in to hold the colour of the setting sun. I remained mostly and the East bank this time, making the most of the sun-burst, shooting directly into it. I tried several different approaches, shooting wide to get in more of the opposite lake-side and then racking in tight on that lone tree, with the sun behind it. I also made a point of shooting a couple of panos, taking images in landscape followed by portrait orientation to see what would work best-since my current workload meant I didn’t know when I’d be out again, I wanted to covered my bases and make sure I got something usable. A image that turned out nicely is the one below, which is actually a pano of 3 portrait-shot pics, extended using PS CS5. The initial stitch turned out a funny shape, but instead of cropping I used CS5’s Content Aware Fill function to fill in the gaps. It needed some retouching not a lot.

Overall I must have taken a good 150 images- enough to keep me happy for a week or two in Photoshop. I was really impressed by the gradation of colours throughout the evening, from deep reds and oranges to subtle blues and purples. I took far more bracketed sequences than is normal for me as I’m presently having a go at improving my HDR skills, although most of the images here are single frames, balanced through the use my trusty Cokin ND grad filters. As it happens I think I need a new ND8- this (my most used grad) has a few too many scratches which light up like a beacon when photographing into the sun; they were a real pain in the &^%! here and I spent far longer than I wanted with the patch and clone tools!
An HDR shot of 7 merged exposures

Simple list this time; I shot all evening on my Canon EOS 7D and EF-S 17-85mm lens, on a Manfrotto 190XproB + 496RC2 head, complete with cable release. Filter-wise I was quite a bit kore stacked than I usually like to be utilizing a Polarizer, ND4 and ND8 grads (although not for long at the same time) and a full ND8 to reduce the ripples in the water.
Let’s just hope that once my upcoming Uni exams are over I’ll get out and about a little, well actually quite a bit more often J
Oh and watch this..!

I love Photoshop (oh sorry Fotoshop) but you have to admit this is funny :)

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year!

So 2011 is over! It was quite an exciting time in terms of photography. As well as the many expected technological advancments in the production of dSLRs we also saw the Compact System Camera (CSC) market spring to life, introducing a whole new exciting option for photographers. When these started showing up I have to admit I was a little sceptical- I've got nothing against small cameras but I was kinda concerned that sector wasn't really going anywhere special i.e. it was just another gimicky bandwagon the camera makers were using to stop people getting bored with their line-ups. However with the recent introduction of models like the Samsung NX200 and in particular the incredible Sony NEX 7 I think I'm converted!

As a Canon user I guess the biggest news for me was the launch of the much andticipated replacement for the EOS 1DS III, the 1DX. I was suprised (like many I imagine) at the spec of this camera, but pleasently so. The techies at Canon finally decided it was time to respond to Nikon's offering of the D3s and produce a camera that was all about low-light performance and less about pixels. What really made me re-read the press release (in AP magazine) was that fact that this camera not only replaces the 1DS but also steps up to relieve the EOS 1D IV. Interesting. Naturally this is all slightly irrelevant to me as there isn't a chance in hell I'm gonna be able to buy myself a 1DX any time soon but it still gave me a buzz to see which direction my company was heading.

Another proud moment for a "Canonian" was to see the EOS 5D II hailed as the best camera of all time in the Amateur Photographer forums. That wasn't what I was expecting either! I had my money on a Leica rangefinder. Even more important to me was that my beloved 7D came in at No. 6- quite an achievment. Buying my 7D had to be the biggest event of my year- truly not even the mightly 1DX could tempt me away from it :)

So as we look into 2012 it's exciting to contemplate what the world of photography will see next!

My photo New Year Resolutions:-

1) Shoot more HDR!
2) Do my best to get more travelling in and find new places to shoot and explore.
3) Shoot more portraits.
4 (and most importantly) Continue to grow and expand as a photogarpher, being clearly focussed on continuing to develop my own style...