Friday, 26 May 2017

Field trip to Carshalton 25 May 2017

A phantom photographer was seen loitering in Carshalton Wednesday evening identifiable only by his shadow cast by the setting sun. Who was it??? The first person to come up with who took this spooky photo gets an extra biscuit at teatime next week.

(N.B. Click on pictures to enlarge them)
The advantage of being in a group pointing your cameras at everything and everyone is that passers-by assume you are a bit cranky and take little notice. Try to do it on your own and people think you're some kind of pervert. So it was all very relaxed and enjoyable wandering around Carshalton ponds and The Grove snapping what took our fancy in the beautiful evening light.

I tried some slow exposures using a Big Stopper filter I bought on eBay, only to find most of them came out blurred however careful I was with the focusing. Closer examination of the pictures showed it wasn't the focus but camera shake. If you don't know what camera shake does, take a look at the enlarged inset in this picture.

Notice the smeary doubling appearance indicating movement of the camera during exposure. Either the ground was shaking or it was the flimsy tripod bought for a couple of quid in a charity shop.

Since posting this Blog, Aodan has suggested the problem may have been due to leaving Image Stabilisation (IS) on. Canon recommends switching IS off when using a tripod, especially with older lenses, as it can confuse the system and make the image jump about. Thanks for keeping that one under your hat Mark :o)

Disenchanted, I went for minimalism and nailed it, don't you think, with this uplifting shot of a hole in a wall?

Then Mark appeared, a master of long exposures honed on the Northern Lights, to show me how Big Stopping should be done using Lee filters and a carbon fibre tripod. Not on the cheap then! Watch and learn Diddy, watch and learn...

His photo of the waterfall in The Grove is a real stunner.

And this one across the ponds shows how moving traffic just disappears if the exposure is long enough - in this case 95 seconds.

Mandy homed straight in on the wildlife capturing this shot of a heron sweeping along the river.

As the light faded, we all drifted towards The Greyhound for a drink and a congenial chat, rounding off a very pleasant (and for some, hopefully, rewarding) evening taking pictures.

The evening was marked by the return of an old friend, Aodan, back today and at last from his eighteen months in South Korea. He looked none the worse after the long flight once he had reacquainted himself with the flavour of English beer. Welcome back Aodan, we missed you.

No doubt you are all now rifling through the pictures you put into our competitions this season to find the best two to put into our Print and PDI of the Year competitions next week.

Adhering to the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid!), we will not be asking you to resize your PDI entries to take best advantage of the higher resolution of the new club projector. We will stick with the 1024 x 768 pixel limits. Next year, however, the maximum dimensions will change to 1440 wide x 1080 high.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

17 May 2017 | Monochrome competition No 4

This week saw the final of this year’s monochrome competition. Chris Carrick prevailed in the beginner’s group with his image Concept Car:

Concept Car - Chris Carrick

In the advanced group, there were two marks of 10 awarded, with Mark Bulle’s shot Tranquility pipping Dave Stoneleigh’s Window Light to the top: 

Tranquillity - Mark Bulle
Window Light - Dave Stoneleigh

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

10 May 2017 | “The Mind’s Eye” – Paul Sanders

This Wednesday, Paul Sanders came to talk about his journey from the high pressure world of being the Times’ picture editor to a landscape photographer.

The talk was peppered with many of Paul’s excellent photos (for examples, head over to as he explained his progress through photography.

Pertinent points from the evening included:

You need to have your own style. Not everyone can even get close to replicating the styles of the greats like Joe Cornish – why try?

Don’t take the same photos as everyone else. Find your own view point. Find your own angle. Make the shot (at risk of sounding like a million and one episodes of the X-Factor) your own.

Slow down. Life is hectic, noisy and fast. It’s difficult to concentrate when you’re trying to do too many things at once. Concentrate on the photo. Concentrate on the view. Take the shot. You’ll end up with better images.

Lighten up. Is there really the need to carry all those cameras and lenses and the other associated paraphernalia (see this post)? Is it possible to use one camera and one lens to do everything you need to? Your back will thank you, long term…

Get the picture right first time. When you’re dealing with exposures measured in the minutes (thank you Lee), it makes complete sense to get the picture as close to perfect in camera as you possibly can. It also saves on the time in front of the computer in post-processing

The evening was thoroughly thought provoking – Paul had judged his audience perfectly and his talk was definitely, for me, one of the highlights of the year. Absolutely fascinating. 

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

3 May | Camera discussion evening

What camera do you own? Why did you buy it? Does it do what you want it to do? More importantly, do you LIKE it?

Those were the questions raised at this week’s evening, where a number of members brought in their kit and explained the rationale behind the choices they made. From full frames, to APS-C, Micro Four Thirds, “bridge” cameras, all the way down to the humble “point and shoot” cameras.

Unsurprisingly, the reasons for choosing their cameras were manifold – the need for big pixels for night shots of the Aurora Borealis; the unwillingness to carry around a heavy SLR and associated lenses; the wish to step “up” from a point and shoot to something a little more capable.

Apart from one account of a hastily bought point and shoot (soon replaced with something more suitable), the broad consensus is that the cameras we have do exactly what we want them to – they were selected with care after research. It’s understandable – cameras don’t come cheap. 

Interchangeable lenses, whilst a necessity for some, are an unnecessary burden to others. Why change lenses, when you have a zoom that runs from 20mm-200mm? Why use a wide-angle lens when Lightroom will stitch panoramic shots together for you?

Furthermore, the cameras are certainly not the be-all and end-all. When you buy a camera – you need to consider the accessories that go with it. What lenses do you buy? Do you even need to buy lenses? So the hottest discussion of the evening was not about the cameras themselves, but what came with them. Some of us just needed a pocket to pop the little Panasonics in. Others lugged around a massive holdall with lenses, torches, batteries and filters in it. What bag do you get? How big does it need to be? Are flaps a good thing or not? Should it be flowery? Do you mind a camera strap emblazoned with the manufacturer’s name on it? Most importantly, when you’re out and about for the day, do you have room for your sandwiches?

Monday, 1 May 2017

26 April 2017 | Open Print Competition No. 4

The final print competition of the year drew around on Wednesday and with a number of members within a hair’s breadth of each other, the evening crackled with anticipation.

The evening was judged by David Mendus and saw a slew of top marks.

In the beginner’s class, Chris Carrick saw nothing selfish in walking away with a perfect 30 from his three stunning images.

In the advanced class, there was a 4 way tie for first place. In the end, Mandy Byatt’s Starling Iridescence was judged to be the overall winner and pipped the others to the plus:

Starling Iridescence - Mandy Byatt
A special mention must this week be given to the wonders that can be worked with Photoshop. Dave Stoneleigh entered and was rewarded handsomely for his two prints – Strawberry Painter and West Ham Tram. Whereas Strawberry Painter was noted to be very obviously worked on in Photoshop, West Ham Tram blurred the lines sufficiently to put doubt in David Mendus’ mind: 

Strawberry Painter - Dave Stoneleigh
West Ham Tram - Dave Stoneleigh
David Pelling guiltily entered his take on Constable’s The Hay Wain – Flatford Mill playing host to a heinously “dropped” bottle of Coke. Even though the bottle was neatly added post-production, it was deemed to be in a non-optimal position for maximum effect: 

A splash of red - David Pelling

Mark smoothly walked away with his second 10 of the season for his excellently shot and undoctored Ice Water Droplet, although his night image - Light Entertainment was thought to be a little too worked upon. Perhaps a little Photoshopping may have been necessary to bump those marks up a little? Ahem. 

Ice water droplet - Mark Bulle

Light Entertainment (and new, furry friend) - Mark Bulle

Thursday, 13 April 2017

PDI COMPETITION No 4 - 5th April 2017 - An evening of contrasts.

Hello and welcome to the latest blog - sorry it's taken a little while to be uploaded.

This is covering our final PDI of the season and we welcomed Rob Bonfield as our judge. Rob is in his first season and was looking forward to the evening as he sets out bravely into the word of judging.

Once again, we had a good show of images with 29 at Level 1 and 31 for Level 2.
Immediate congratulations to our main winners on the night. In Level 1 we saw:

Our Winner on the night with 10+: Chris Carrick - Another Persons Art

Rob particularly liked the way the interest was right across the image

Summer Boat Trip: 10 - Anna Borsarelli 

A fascinating photograph - Valencia I think. To my surprise, this very place was then on TV last Friday on Alex Polizzi's Spain!

Street Clown: 10 - Kevin Brookes

Here, Rob was puzzled by the composition, wondering if the person was in the box! It is certainly a great image with the contrast just right

At Level 2 we had:

Our Winner on the night: Stargazing: 10+ - Mark Bulle

Well done Mark for capturing such a stunning image!

Morning Walk on A Foggy Day: 10 - Rosh K

A really atmospheric image

Temptation: 10 - David Stoneleigh

Another wonderful creation from David that certainly had Rob's admiration in how it was put together

Lancing Chapel: 10 - Howard Carless

Striking colours and a real sense of space make this a worthy top points scorer.

Overall, we had a variety of comments and observations from Rob. As is often the case with the judging, it was not long before a theme had developed and Rob’s was all about contrast.
He made many valid points about images that have “bright patches” that can distract and suggested that the way to retain interest is to maintain good contrast throughout the image. Certainly, post production work on shadows and highlights should be undertaken to help the image create that important first impression.

Another good observation is to ensure that your key features, i.e. those you want the viewer to focus on first, are separated in an image. Again, alongside that, it is worth making sure that nothing too bright takes the eye away from your main attraction and this can be one area where contrast plays a part.

We saw many abstract, pattern shots in this competition and here, Rob asked that the photographer makes sure not to make an image too confusing - spend time choosing the best spot from which to shoot.

Finally, I did notice that, in Level 2, Rob switched from saying images could be darkened down, to suggesting that post production be used carefully to brighten up the image. It just goes to show that even in the space of a couple of hours, one's thoughts on what makes a good competition photograph can be turned around and ultimately contrast with views only recently expressed.

I wish you all a great Easter Break!

Friday, 31 March 2017

Smartphone Photography competition, 29th March 2017

Did you watch the series on BBC4 Britain in Focus: A Photographic History  that I drew attention to recently? In the final programme, Eamonn McCabe interviewed a representative of photography today, a young teenage girl who used a smartphone to record her everyday life and communicate it with her friends.

If photography is about anything, it's about communication, and this kid (who came across as a pretty perceptive judge of what made a good picture) exemplified what I guess we have to accept is now mainstream photography. Good on the presenter for having the bottle to highlight it in a series like this. And good on Mark for giving us the chance to explore it in a semi-serious way. It would be nice to make this a permanent part of the club's programme.

We were allowed to enter up to 5 pictures each and a total of 61 were entered. OK, some people took the 'fun' aspect a bit far, but it was certainly interesting to see how individual members met the challenge. Members themselves judged the entries marking what they considered the best, and their second and third preferences.

So congratulations to Aodan who won both the first and second places. (When you going to stop gadding about in South Korea, Aodan - would it take a threatened missile strike from Kim Jong-il to bring you back?). Here are his winning pictures:

Fairground Ride

Autumn morning

The club's arch ruler-bender Dave S came third with his very loose interpretation of the competition requirements.  It was called Mobile Phone Photo - Texting. How did the Easter Egg taste Dave?

At a recent buddy night, Philip drew attention to the App Snapseed and, although I missed his demonstration, I installed it to have a look. A number of members processed their images for the competition using Snapseed which is available for Android and iOS from the Google App Store for free.

It's a lot of fun to use and impressively powerful with many of the features you may be familiar with in PhotoShop, including content-aware healing and fine-tune contrast adjustments using curves. New tools are added as they are developed, by Nik Software I believe. Three appeared magically yesterday, one called 'Double Exposure' allowing the combination of several pictures and another which claims you can 're-pose' portraits, which sounds intriguing.

Philip was hoping to demonstrate the App after our competition on Wednesday but in the short time available wasn't able to set it up to project. If anyone knows how to 'mirror' a smartphone or tablet screen on a laptop, please let us know.