Joe Cornish, the great British landscape photographer, advocates taking most of your photographs no more than thirty minutes from your home. So, here's my blog featuring pictures either thirty minutes drive or walk away from my front door or from the place where I'm staying for a few days. I'll also be writing about photography in general from time to time. Please enjoy!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Book Reviews

I've just obtained two excellent books to my photography library.

Firstly, we have a photo guidebook called "How to Photograph Anglesey" by Mark Youlden, who is a photographer based on the island. In an A5 format and running to 96 pages, Mark has crammed in 34 locations around the island to visit, each with a brief description of how to get there, where to park and the best time of year to visit. Each location has at least one image taken by Mark illustrating its potential. There are over 85 high quality colour images superbly reproduced. In addition, he has thoughtfully laid out some sound advice for novices and more experienced photographers about the choice of equipment, using filters, simple guidelines for effective composition and time exposures.

The locations include the bridges over the Menai Straits, the eastern coast, including Penmon Point and Puffin Island, Amlwch, Holyhead (particularly the Celtic Gateway Bridge), churches and the south-western coast, which is my favourite stamping ground. Needless to say, the book is now with my OS map of the island and I suspect that it will get much use over the coming months.

The book is published by Llygad Gwalch ISBN: 978-1-84527-179-7 and costs just £6.50. It's available from Waterstones, Amazon (where there's a five-star review!) or direct from the publishers. My copy was bought for me in a garden centre on the island. Mark has received support from the Welsh Book Council and has two more guidebooks in the pipeline covering Snowdonia and the Llyn Peninsular.

I must add that I have no connection whatsoever with Mark, the Welsh Book Council or the publishers other than being a very satisfied owner.

You can see more of Mark's work on his website - click here - or via Facebook - search for Mark Youlden Photography.

My most recent purchase is Bruce Fraser's "Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop CS2". There are more current editions available but at £36.99 recommended retail price for the most recent edition, I'm afraid I baulked! I paid £2.49 from my local Oxfam bookshop - feed your mind, feed the world - for a mint condition copy. This book deals solely with Adobe's Camera Raw (ACR), Digital Negative (DNG) and Bridge. Okay, it's CS2 and ACR 3.0, which are a little old but the techniques and principles are portable to current versions of ACR. DNG was introduced with ACR 3.0 so having some additional data on this format will be useful.

Every conceivable topic is covered from preferences through each tool from camera settings to workflow considerations, importing images into Bridge, updating metadata, automating processes and export into CS2, which is where my interest stops. The book is written in a logical way from how Raw works, a system overview, Raw's controls - tools, palette, histogram and settings - Raw menu covering preferences, loading and saving settings and export. The Raw workflow controls (the various tabs in the righ-hand window) get excellent coverage.

Camera setup is discussed at length before Bridge and it's multitude of options is tackled. Finally, workflow, metadata and automation are covered along with creating contact sheets, HDR merging PDF, web galleries and other presentation methods.

The book runs to 300 pages is copiously illustrated to reinforce the text instructions and, at the price I paid, a real bargain. It's my bedtime reading at the moment.

The series is published by Peachpit in association with Adobe Press, both of who have long standing associations with computer textbooks. If you want a more recent copy then I suggest you look to Amazon and search under Bruce Fraser.

An excellent book to make you a Raw genius or if you just want to know what all those tools really do.

If you have any doubts about using Raw or JPEG's I would advise that Raw is the way to go; the amount of data contained in a Raw file over a JPEG is huge so you will get far better images with greater opportunities for digital manipulation without loss of quality. Thus, getting the best out of ACR is of paramount importance and while I have a good grasp of using the program to have an Adobe-supported book on hand to suggest better or even correct ways of achieving a particular result is a good thing.

The Best Laid Plans...

The weather in Wales last weekend was wonderful; pity I had a minor technical problem with my big kit! I missed a couple of good sunsets and a stunning dawn. So... I used my iPhone to take a few street images.

There's been a lot in the photo press recently extolling the virtues of the iPhone and its various apps. Lee Frost has written and illustrated a couple of very good articles in Black & White Photography magazine while Daniel Lezano in Digital SLR Photography did pretty much the same. The photographs below were downloaded into Adobe Bridge then tweaked slightly and cropped in Elements 9 before getting a monochrome makeover with my product of the year, Silver Efex Pro 2, which continues to amaze me - the effects this software applied to the original images is quite remarkable and improved every aspect of them.

I selected a custom preset (landscape) then added the film emulsion for Kodak ISO32 Panatomic X before a little tweaking of the contrast settings to bring out some detail. That might sound an awful lot of work for iPhone images but each one took less than five minutes to process. I think the monochrome conversion has really improved the images. It would be interesting to see comments from you, dear reader. Anyway, here's the pictures:

A Dog Named Boo
UPDATE 11 NOVEMBER 2011: I submitted "A Dog Named Boo" to my Fotoblur account and I'm both thrilled and pleased to report that it was a Featured Image in their Street Performance category.

Music to Watch Girls By

The Pirates Den

Asleep at the Wheel
Click on any image for the bigger picture

The two musician images were taken in Bangor city centre, the ramshackle garage was found in Menai Bridge and the sleeping man was in Beaumaris.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Ansel Adams said...

‎"Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships..."

So don't feel bad about doing the same to your digital images. Ansel would have loved exploring digital photography techniques. Spending an hour studying the great mans' work...

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Nana's Room

Sometimes you just chance on an image and have to act quickly. "Nana's Room" is one such image. 

I was passing the bedroom when I saw some beautiful light momentarily shining into the room. There was a lovely shadow on the wall and I wanted to get the image. My TZ-10 was to hand and I was able to quickly compose and shoot off six images before the light went. In fact, I captured more than the shadows; I got some of the dressing table, too, with some gorgeous rim lighting. It was an instant still life.

When time allowed (last evening!) I decided to process one of the images. Monochrome was my first choice and using Silver Efex Pro2 I selected a Fine Art Process preset as the start point. Next, I modified the brightness - highlights and midtones to +14% and shadows to -14%. I then increased the structure (contrast effectively) to +50% across all three ranges and adding a vignette preset.

Having done the basic work I went back to the brightness increasing the midtones to 42% and shadows to +10%. Returning to Elements I cropped to 12x8, applied an unsharp mask of 33% with a radius of 1 and a 3x threshold and, finally, a high pass filter at a radius of 0.2.

I really like the effect and hope you do, too.

Click the image for the bigger picture

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

A Path Through the Dunes

There was some good weather during the summer and here is an image from one of those days.

We took a picnic to our favourite place, which is Llanddwyn on the island of Anglesey. Llanddwyn is an island in its own right being cut off from the mainland at high tide. There's the lovely woodlands of Newborough Forest to explore, long wild beaches that can be deserted, wildlife a plenty, rolling dunes with dense clumps of marram grass and super views to the Lleyn Peninsular. It's a great place for photography whatever the weather.

Paul Gallagher is a favourite photographer who works almost exclusively in black and white. He has captured some wonderful shots of the marram grasses on the coast between Liverpool and Southport. I'd been waiting for the right conditions to use some of his techniques and was blessed with a beautiful calm day with blue skies and wonderful cloud formations.

The image was captured using a polarising filter and Lee 0.6 graduated ND filter. I loved the savageness of the rocks against the softness of the marram and the clouds were just made to complement the image.

Click the image for the bigger picture

The Evolution of an Image

During a few spare minutes earlier in the year I converted a colour image I'd posted here previously under the title "Holiday Homes". It was posted on my Fotoblur site under the title "Perfect Summer Day" and did quite well for itself being featured by the Monochrome group. Well, the same image has evolved still further!

I do love the square format and I wondered just how the image would look cropped to 5x5. I'm pleased with the result, which you can see below. It just goes to show that an image, like a painting, is never truly finished.

Click the image for the bigger picture

The original mono conversion was hand done in Adobe Camera RAW and Elements using techniques from a Future Publishing black & white guide and at some stage during the long winter evenings I shall do a new conversion using Silver Efex2 Pro.

Lee "Big Stopper"

Joy of joys... my Lee "Big Stopper" glass filter has finally arrived! Pity it was just a little too late to capture some of the stormy weather we had during the second week of October. I'm looking forward to getting out and seeing how it all works and will give you a full review in due course.