My son is feelin’ The Force this morning

I’ve recently got the bug to take more photos with by iPhone 3G, rather than fixating on using my DLSR. Using a camera phone can be less intrusive in some situations. This scene just took my eye as my young boy was playing with Star Wars characters. I added  a little bit of tilt-shift, and a filter that added grain to the image a bit. Lighting was natural light from the window.


Lovely morning in Attenborough

I took this photo on my iPhone 3G – not a fantastic piece of photographic kit by any description. I used the excellent Instagram iPhone app to process the image. This app has a tilt-shift feature that lets you add fake depth of field, and I used that to blur out the trees in the distance. One of the dozen or so filters that Instagram provides gave the photo the cool blue/grey tint that adds a bit of mood.

Playing with Light

Light bottle

Light trail

The Christmas break this year gave me the opportunity to play around a bit with long exposure shots. The bottle picture on the right is the best of my experiments, and is a single 20 second exposure with minimal post-processing. The set-up was easy – just an empty bottle of wine, a darkened room, a blue wooden table, a tripod, and a blue LED penlight.

The idea was that once the shutter opened, I would move the penlight torch around the bottle in what would hopefully be a spiral shape. The movement produces the bright light trail, but also leaves enough light to illuminate the base and some of the bottle – in particular the label.

The trickiest part of the setting up is to determine the focus point. You can’t use the camera’s automatic focus as there is not enough light in the scene for the auto-focus system to work. While you could just switch to manual mode, on the basic SLR I used – a Canon EOS 350D – manual focusing aides are a bit limited. Instead I switched the main room light on, used the camera’s auto-focus to pick out the bottle, and then switched the lens to manual focus mode, being careful not to disturb the lens at all. I then killed the lights to start the shoot.
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More exposure blending


Peak District exposure blend

Following on from my previous post “Something from nothing“, this image uses a different technique to blend an overexposed sky with a detailed foreground. I nearly called it “Something a bit better from a little bit more”. This post is shorter than the earlier article, and hopefully less coma-inducing as a result.

The photo was taken from Heggar Tor in the Derbyshire Peak District last April in the early evening. This time I had the benefit of my Canon EOS 350D digital SLR, and captured in RAW format, which gives much more to play with in post processing. I also used slightly different software – Photoshop Elements 5 (or possibly 6 – I forget when I upgraded). The editing process still uses layers, but this time rather than overlay them using masks, combines them using blend modes.

The resulting image won’t win any prizes, but I rather like it. It may not be too obvious from the small image here, but if you click on the above image and select the larger version (via the “All sizes” button) you should be able to see some of the fine detail of the rocks and lichen.

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Something from nothing

Derbyshire landscape

This image came out of nothing, and I’m not sure if it is cheating or not. With a pretty poor original photo (see below) I changed the colours, messed with the contrast,  blended different parts together and airbrushed out some bits that were spoiling the shot. Which got me to thinking: at what point does photo enhancement fake things too much in an attempt make up for poor camera technique?

Here I describe how I put this image together from an original low quality shot. If nothing else it may help people who want to do similar things using their photo editor. I’ll leave it to the reader to judge whether I should have just taken a better picture to start with.

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Perfect Puddlejump

Perfect Puddlejump This is one of my favourite photos that I took last year. After the heavy rains in the summer, I took my son down to the local nature reserve in his full waterproofs, knowing that big puddles would be too much of a temptation for a five year old little boy.

As you can see in the next picture, he got quite enthusiastic!
Jumping Puddles

If you click on any of the images you will be taken to the original picture on my Flickr site, and from there browse all the exposure and timing information. Both images are slightly cropped, but are otherwise unretouched.

Photosynth goes live!

About a year ago I wrote about the Photosynth technology from Microsoft that creates 3D spaces from collections of photographs. At the time it only worked with a few sample data sets created by Microsoft, but there was a very nice demo to download and it was a pretty exciting piece of tech. Just a few days ago Microsoft released a full version that allows you to create your own “photosynths” by uploading collections of photos.

I just had to have a go. The image above shows a screen-grab of the Photosynth viewer with some data that I took.

Read on for more on the new release, how I got on with it, videos and links to the 3D scenes that I created.

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3 Peaks Challenge – Part 2: The hikes

Setting off, 5pm Friday

Setting off, 5pm Friday

In this second article on my recent 3 Peaks challenge I describe the hikes themselves and the transits between the mountains. See Part One for a description of the challenge.

My personal times were:

Mountain Start Summit reached Back at base Distance
Ben Nevis 5pm 7-50pm 10pm 10 miles
Scafell Pike 4-30am 6-30am 8-30am 6 miles
Snowdon 1-45pm 4-10pm 7-30pm 8.5 miles

So as you can see I did succeed and completed it – I got to the top of Snowdon in a shade over 23 hours. I was a little disappointed not to get down again within 24 hours, but as you will discover when you read the account of each mountain, I just count myself lucky to have even finished at all, irrespective of times.

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3 Peaks Challenge – Part 1: Overview

3Peaks-03 On the weekend of June 20th I took part in the national Three Peaks Challenge to try and climb the three highest peaks in the UK mainland within 24 hours. Starting off at Ben Nevis (1344m) in Scotland, I also climbed Scafell Pike (978m) in the Lake District, and ended up at Mount Snowdon (1085m) in Wales. In all there was about 25 miles of walking, hundreds of miles driving, and not too much sleep. I was part of the Long Eaton Round Table team of 20 walkers attempting the challenge, all to raise money for various charities including Multiple Sclerosis research. I’ve written here the story of the team’s efforts. But this post, however, is intended to be a more personal account of the challenge itself, the training and the preparation that went in to it.  Along the way I’ll mention a bit about taking photos on the way. Hopefully it will provide an interesting and useful resource for others who are doing the challenge too.

This is the first of two articles on the challenge, describing what it is and how we went about it. Part Two will go into the experience itself.

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Flickrvision – A Very Cool Flickr Slideshow

Something that caught my eye on the Digital Urban blog was a reference to a fantastic little website applet that shows Flickr slideshows with a difference. Called Flickrvision, it shows a near-realtime view of images being uploaded to the Flickr online album website, overlaid on a map of the world. You can overlay the pictures either on a normal 2D Googlemap or, as the screenshot here shows, onto a 3D view of the Earth which spins around to help position the images.

Flickrvision in 3D mode

Flickrvision in 3D mode

You can go straight to the 3D version by clicking this link. There’s no need to install anything – just click & go. To switch to the Googlemap version, just press the “Classic View” button that appears on the screen. It is a great page to just leave open on your desktop, especially if like me you have a two screen set-up.

A game you could play would be to upload photos to Flickr and watch to see if they appear on the globe. Have your favourite screen grabber tool at the ready…