Monday 28 February 2011

MMM ~ Week 4 ~ Assignment

Week 4 of Mastering Manual Mode already, and we continue looking at Aperture Priority. This actually has been my preferred mode for the last 10 months or so (and I completely ignored everything else, leaving for example ISO always on automatic). Time to really start to learn how all the things work together!

The assignment was to take a series of pictures with different apertures. Well, to be exact, the assignment was to concentrate on the full stop aperture, i.e. f/1.4, f/2.0, f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.6, f/8.0, f/11, f/16. But I just wanted to try out the whole range of my lovely 50mm 1.8 lens, including all the fractions in between, so I went through the whole range from 1.8 up till 22. I took these inside, in my living room, and in the late afternoon, so it was already quite a bit darkish, hence the long shutter speeds.

But I think this is such a lovely exercise (and one I've actually had wanted to do for quite some time). Putting them all side by side, it gives you a great overview of the depth for each aperture. I definitely want to do this again in different light conditions. It's something you can always get back to. And I now have the mosaic template as well :-).

I tried to upload this last night, but without success. I'm afraid the quality of the picture isn't very good (anymore), which is why it's rather small here. This is because, math genius that I am, my calculations for the mosaic ended up in a file that was so huge that even with saving it with jpeg quality 0 was still far too huge to be uploaded. But I found a simple online image compression tool which allowed me to finally upload it: Ah well, another lesson learned... :-). And as to the template, I'm afraid I'll just have to bin it and start the whole work all over again... :-(

Tuesday 15 February 2011

Snowdrops ~ The First Signs of Spring

I've been seeing lots of wonderful snowdrops already on Flickr but haven't seen any around here yet. Over the weekend, the weather and temperature were very spring like - mild and sunny. And I finally found a bunch of little snowdrops right in my street, in a sheltered corner. There the only ones I've seen so far, but even though I'm a winter girl, and would love to have some more snow before spring finally arrives, I simply can't resist their charm.

The quote is from a line from Hans Christian Anderson's story The Snowdrop. (Source: The Hans Christian Andersen Center, DK-Odense)


The Snowdrop
by Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

Many, many welcomes,
February fair-maid!
Ever as of old time,
Solitary firstling,
Coming in the cold time,
Prophet of the gay time,
Prophet of the May time,
Prophet of the roses,
Many, many welcomes,
February fair-maid!

It's cooler and rainy again today but I'm afraid there won't be any more snow for this winter down here. But at least, there's all the beautiful spring flowers to look forward to :-)

Monday 14 February 2011

Format Choice: Portrait or Landscape?

In photography, one of the most important parts is composition. You can have the best, fanciest, most expensive, latest pro camera, if you haven't got at least a little eye for composing your image, you're photos will always lack something. It's not about technology but about seeing (although having a good camera is a great thing to have - just don't rely on it to make a great photo). What part of the subject are you going to represent? Wide angle, close-up, macro view, putting it fully visible in the centre (maybe better not), or somewhere to the right and cutting off some parts (remembering the rule of thirds and adding a bit more drama/interest). These are just few examples.

Another question is the question of format you choose: Landscape or Portrait. Some subjects traditionally demand a certain format - such as the portrait or the landscape, obviously. On the other hand, going for the unexpected frame might just make the subjects more interesting. Especially in landscape shots with water, i.e. lakes and rivers, I find that the portrait format often works much better. But at many times, I'm finding it really hard to decide which format to choose and so I often end up taking several photos of the same subject in both formats. And then I simply can't decide which one I prefer! As with my favourite tea lover mug.

I think that the landscape format really works well with the subject, focus on the mug and the lovely amaretti, and I like the cut off chairs and that blue bit behind the chair.

But I also quite like the portrait format which puts the mug and amaretto into the foreground, with the cut off handle of the mug and the two chairs visible in the background inviting you to sit down, take a break and have a nice cup of tea.

Usually, I slightly prefer one version to the other, but here are cases, like this one, where I just simply cannot decide...

Yet another choice then comes with the processing. SOOC (which I never really do at all), some slight post processing to bring out colours, tones, brightness etc. Or using textures and/or actions (which I still haven't figured out how to use with my PSE8). I've been quite a bit of a texture addict these last few weeks, and I still absolutely love them. But in the last few days, when doing the assignments for the Mastering Manual Mode class, I didn't use textures, just some slight processing, and have been quite happy with the result.

So here's the above image with a texture. I quite like it, but I also like the one without. Another example of where I just simply can't decide...

Oh my, always these decisions, decisions. I think it's time for a nice cup of tea now... :-)

Saturday 12 February 2011

MMM ~ Week 2 ~ Assignments 1 & 2

In week 2 of Mastering Manual Mode we're looking at ISO and Program Mode. Program Mode is basically the next step up from Auto Mode (other terms I've heard or seen for this mode are "Idiot Mode" and "Muppet Mode" and I'm sure there are a few more :-) ). Unlike Auto Mode, in which your camera takes control of everything, there are a few things in Program Mode you need to be aware of - or rather where you can take a little influence, such as ISO.
The first assignments was to just take two different images in Program Mode. I didn't do anything as to ISO or anything else, just let everything on Auto. That's one of the two images, which I somehow quite like. I did some slight adjustments in PSE8, such as a layer with soft light (this has become a bit of a "must" really), some levels adjustment and a slight saturation boost. I also changed the colour of the text a bit, as the original is a rather too bright blue, which I toned down a bit.

70mm (17-70mm 1:2.8-4 lens); ISO 1600; 1/100; f4.0

* * *

The second assignment was to take a series of images of the same subject with different ISO settings and see how shutter speed and aperture change and how ISO affects the image. You can see that there's quite a lot of noise in the last, with ISO 6400. Which is not really surprising, is it :-). Again some slight levels and saturation adjustments, using exactly the same for all images.

As with last week's assigment, I created a mosaic to present them. I'm getting quite good as with using layer masks to create these :-). Only that I never manage to do the math right for the size of the background. So there's always a lot of resizing and moving around and final cropping of the background to make it all fit. I was always hopeless with math...

50mm 1.8 lens; ISO 100 - 6400

Friday 11 February 2011

MMM ~ Week 1 ~ Assignment 1

Last week was the start of the course Mastering Manual Mode at Big Picture Classes. I signed up for it because after 3/4 of a year with my DSLR, it was about time to master the basics. I changed to Aperture Priority mode very quickly and more or less mastered when to use which aperture for best results. Occasionally, usually for night shots, I used Shutter Speed Priority, but only rarely. ISO I usually ignored completely and let the camera deal with it. The only in camera adjustments I did was exposure but that was basically it.

So now, with the beginning of the new year and the beginning of my creative journey, I thought it was perfect time to get into Manual.

I did the first assignment last Sunday but when I wanted to process the images, I realised that I did it all wrong because, of course, as usual, I hadn't read the instructions properly. As we were supposed to take different images in and around our house in the daylight, I had to wait until today, my day off, to do it again.

The assignment was to take pictures of the same subject in different lighting situations, with the camera set on program mode and ISO to 400, and to make a note of shutter speed and aperture for each image. I processed each image in PSE8 with slight adjustments of levels and/or saturation.

It's already week 2 actually, and the next assignment is waiting. I'll be working on that tomorrow afternoon or Sunday - but this time reading through it properly first! :-)

Thursday 10 February 2011

Light & Shadows

~ there are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast (charles dickens) ~

Photography is a great medium to take a different look at things and put them into perspective. I took this image for the Flickr group 52 of Twenty Eleven for this week's theme Shadows.

Some recurring health issues are casting a shadow over my general state of wellbeing at times. The bright side to it is that it could be worse (but hopefully never will be).

But that's life: full of lights and shadows. And at the end, it is really mainly a question of attitude and the point of view you choose to adopt. (Says a born pessimist and expert prophet of doom and gloom... ;.) )

Textures by borealnz

Monday 7 February 2011

New Blog Header

I've tried my hand at creating a new blog header today. After using a simple photo (which I didn't manage to fit properly) and one of the default fonts, I discovered the wonderful blog header made by Rita at The CoffeeShop Blog. It was a PSD template file which allowed you to easily add your photos to the photo masks. I've used it for the last two or three weeks and I love it but on the other hand, I wanted to try it out myself and create my very own blog header.

Having worked through most of the classes of two of the e-courses by Kim Klassen, I felt confident enough to create my own layer mask template. It worked quite well and I'm really pleased with the result though I already see a hundred things that could be improved. But the good thing with designing your own stuff is that you can change and improve and work on it as often as you want. And I'm sure that's what I'll be doing. But for the moment, I'm quite happy with this one.

Blog Header

Sunday 6 February 2011

Colour Mini Album

I finally, finally, about three months after the end of the course, managed to finish my mini album :-). In October 2010, I came across the e-course Colour! Or is it Color? at Big Picture Classes. It sounded interesting, I signed up and liked it a lot. It was the first time I'd done any scrapbooking at all. In fact, I hadn't even heard about it before the course.

Front cover

We looked at colour in special, following the colours of the rainbow - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, adding the neutrals black and white in addition. Apart from creating a layout with the respective colours, we also did those little colour cards. For each colour we got a square card with information about the respective colour. In addition, we created a matching page with a mini layout for each colour. In the last week, we then were to make the covers and turn the whole thing into a mini colour reference album.

Front and back covers

As I already said, it took me 3 months to do this. Not because I didn't want to do it. On the contrary. But there were so many things coming in between. Most of all all the photography and post processing e-courses I was taking, resulting in me spending virtually all my free time at the computer the last few weeks. I absolutely enjoy post processing and there's still a lot I want to learn about photography. And I needed that time to shut myself away and totally concentrate on those classes. But now, I want to make room for other things again, among them scrapbooking. So on Saturday, I got out all my stuff and finally finished my mini album. First I glued the pages together, back to back (I'm really a mess with glue) and then made the covers (oh what fun putting all those layers on top of each other!), sticking the first and last of the colour cards on the respective covers. Then punching the holes, of course not without punching them at the wrong side on one of my cards (my, I'm such an idiot at times) and finally putting the rings through - et voilà.

I must say, I'm very pleased with the result. And even a little bit proud (despite the punching mistake). And very much INSPIRED to do more of these mini albums. Don't they make a wonderful gift as well?

That class was so much fun and I think really quite the beginning of my phase of creativity and inspiration!

Back and front covers

I just realised that this is my 100th post! Wow, that went quick. Hopefully many more to come! :-)

Thursday 3 February 2011

{31} ~ One Little Word / Another 52 Project

Prompt for Day 31 for Picture Winter

Inspired by Ali Edwards' class One Little Word, today's prompt was to shoot our word that we've selected for 2011 (and think about one, I you haven't yet). 

You might know by now that my word for 2011 is Inspiration, as I've mentioned it already more than once. So I won't write any more about it here and bore you (again) with it. It's just another representation of what I want to focus on this year with my word.

But what I also want to do this year is to do more b&w. I love b&w shots and I still fondly remember one afternoon spent in the school's darkroom, over ten years ago, developing pictures I'd taken in Venice. It was the only time I actually developed my own pictures and I sooo enjoyed it. I remember developing each photo several times, trying out all the different tones, from bright soft to harsh contrasts, watching how the chemicals made the image appear before my eyes like magic.

The digital process of turning colour pictures into b&w reminds me of that process. And I find it a 100 times more difficult than processing colour images. What works better for the image - soft greys, strong contrasts, darker, brighter, sepia, or even bringing back a hint of the original colours underneath?

I see quite a lot of b&w images around in my Flickr contacts' streams at the moment and it has inspired me to sit down and give it a try as well. I've joined the new Flickr group 52 weeks of no color to keep me inspired and to encourage me to go on with it and not give up again too quickly because I'm not satisfied with the result at the first try (and I've tried it quite a few times, most of them wandering straight into the bin afterwards).

So this is my first image for 52 weeks of no color and I'm already cheating a bit. I took this image the week before last and didn't intend it to be b&w at first but last night, when I processed it to bring out all the colours of the pastels, I just suddenly thought that it might be cool to turn a picture so full of colours into one without colours. I gave it a try and think I actually like it more than the colour version :-).