Category: Photography

Nov 09 2012

More Winners!

In Rehearsal, Dud Muurmand practicing before Gothla UK Friday Showcase in 2012

In Rehearsal

This photo, of Dud Muurmand ‘In Rehearsal,’ won first place in Competition League Round 4, Open DPI category, at Shepshed and District Camera Club on 2nd October this year.

The photo was taken at maximum ISO on my Canon 5D mkii as Dud tried out the stage prior to the Friday Night Showcase on July 13th at GothlaUK 2012, The Y! in Leicester.

I also took 3rd place in the Themed Print category, ‘Snow,’ with ‘Frozen Pond on the River Lin,’ taken in early February this year.


Frozen Pond on the River Lin

Frozen Pond on the River Lin

Jul 09 2012

Winning At Photography

Perhaps it is only the truly creative person who labours long in isolation to perfect his or her craft. The rest of us like to have some acknowledgement and appreciation as we go along.

So it is with my photography. The Open University’s interactive ten week course encouraged its students to upload to a common pool of photos each week and to comment helpfully on each other’s efforts.

Most of us felt bereaved after the course had finished. Whatever could we aim at in the ensuing weeks? We had made helpful online contacts. Although we’d never actually met, we valued each other’s opinions and constructive criticism.

We continued to support each other via flickr groups. But there comes a point when either interest wanes, or  you feel that you want to test your ability further. That is the point when you join a competitive camera club.

I’ve been a member of Shepshed and District Camera Club for 18 months. I’ve entered the competition league and submitted entries for all contests so far this year, being elected Assistant Competition Secretary somewhere along the way.

I have learnt a lot from judges’ adjudications, which has encouraged me simply to go on taking photos. Familiarity with equipment and technique shows in the quality of work that you produce.

I’ve also been placed with at least one entry in most competitions and am making a small dent in the club’s league.

My biggest success to date has been with a view of the skyline at Garendon Park, just east of Junction 23 on the M1. A landowner in the 19th century had a folly built on the skyline, which we locals nickname The Temple of Venus. Evergreen trees resembling cypresses were also planted along the ridge. In winter, in the right sunlight, the viewpoint is remarkably Tuscan. Which is why I strayed on to private property one very cold winter afternoon in mid-January, in the golden hour before the sun went down, to take a photo entitled Tuscan Landscape in Loughborough.

Tuscan Landscape in Loughborough

Tuscan Landscape in Loughborough

Not only has this photo taken first prize in a club contest, it has also been used several times by my local newspaper, the Shepshed/Loughborough Echo, to illustrate stories about the fate of Garendon Park, notably on the front page of the edition dated June 15th 2012. The editor rang me personally for permission to publish!

I was also very gratified when three of my prints were displayed at the Ashby-de-la-Zouch Jubilee photographic exhibition in June.

I have finally succeeded in assembling photos taken in Oman in January and March 2004 into an entry into the camera club’s slideshow challenge, which was very well received. The club will be introducing an annual slideshow contest from next year.

Please enjoy Journeys in Oman.


Apr 16 2012

Long Time Gone From SoozNooz

Having been away from my blog for so long, I hardly know where to start again. I have not been idle. I just haven’t been recording it here.

For one thing, I’ve been furnishing a new apartment in Tangiers, Morocco, just 100m from the beach one way and 500m from the railway station in the other direction. You can sip tea in bed in the mornings gazing out over the Mediterranean. You can also rent it from me for a relaxing break. See the photos.

As well as  making a considerable investment, I also had a great adventure, travelling overland through France and Spain to Tangier arriving finally at the new Port-Méditerranée 30 km east of the city. Which is when the fun began with Customs. I was fortunate to be travelling with my Moroccan friend, Aziz, who was able to contact his friend in charge. The chief gave orders that we could be allowed through with household goods. Otherwise we could have been detained all weekend.

We were not the only travellers. Decrepit vans were piled high with the sort of stuff that people in UK take to recycling centres. Once cleared through Customs, they would be travelling south through Morocco to The Sahara, selling the goods on the way. I have a poor photo. If I can get the webhost to allow me to change permissions on my folders, I might even be able to upload it for you.

We were delayed originally because we had brought photo canvases which I had made. The Customs officials had been alerted to the theft of a painting from The Louvre in Paris only the day before, so we became suspects. I was mortified when Customs men began flinging them on the ground at the back of the van, and ventured to put them back carefully into their packaging. Aziz was alarmed, as he said my actions would be regarded as suspect.

After leaving Leicester at 8pm on a Wednesday evening, we arrived finally at the villa in Ksar Sghrir at midnight on the Friday. Sleep? What was that? A few snatched hours in the front of the 4×4 in garage lay-bys at irregular intervals.

Other than Morocco, I have been busy studying again with the Open University. I took the new Geology course and got a distinction. ‘So I should!’ exclaimed my husband, being a Geology graduate in the first place. However, it did teach me the new way of looking at Sedimentology, so was well worth it.

The following year, I took U101, Design and Design Thinking. I’ve never thought of myself as a designer, but discovered that I do it all the time. I’m not sure I feel particularly compatible with people who call themselves designers though.

It’s the short, ten week courses, that have been real eye-openers. I took T189 Digital Photography late in 2010, which has opened up new routes and interests via photography. Thus I have been recording what’s been happening to me through my camera rather than through writing. See the evidence on Flickr.  I also did well on the partner course T150 Digital Audio.

More to describe another time. In the meantime, I shall have to harangue my webhost about ftp permissions on my directories.

Dec 29 2008

Creating panorama shots in Photoshop CS3

Petra Tou Roumio, Cyprus, birthplace of Aphrodite

Petra Tou Roumio, Cyprus, birthplace of Aphrodite

When I can’t decide on a creative issue on a website, or if I have to write something, I procrastinate. Don’t you? This morning, my procrastination led me to review the photos I’d taken while on holiday in Paphos, Cyprus, in April last year. I rather fancied the idea of entering the Creative Challenge at Webshots Blog and thought there might be something suitable in the Paphos folder, but there isn’t. I had a very handy, small Nikon camera with me on holiday, but the light was very bright in Cyprus and the camera tended to over-expose.

However, I thought I’d try making a panoramic shot of Petra tou Roumio Bay in Photoshop CS3. The individual photos aren’t anything to shout about, but the view as a whole is breathtaking. Photoshop has enabled its users to assemble panoramic montages in several earlier versions, and has provided more scope with this facility in its latest CS3 rendition.

Open Photoshop. Go to File > Automate > Photomerge. A dialog box opens offering you five editing options, depending on how much control you want to take over the process. There’s Auto, Perspective, Cylindrical, Reposition Only and Interactive Layout. Rather than my trying to explain what each of these options do, I think you would get a more intuitive grasp by going through the process. You are able to choose the photos that you want to include, either by having them already open in Photoshop, or in a folder, or by using Control + Click on a PC (presumably Apple key + Click on a Mac) on the particular files within a folder.

Make sure that there is an identifiable feature at the edge of each photo which can be matched to the next one, and you should have taken each of the photos with the same camera settings from the same spot for the process to work most smoothly.

Click OK and Photoshop goes into action building the panorama. Depending on the amount of RAM in your computer and how big each individual photo file is, this could take seconds or minutes. I have a lot of RAM on my PC, but it still took at least 10 seconds to build my panorama of Petra tou Roumio.

The delay might have been caused by the fact that Photoshop simply couldn’t match one of the photos at one end. There wasn’t enough of the recognisable feature for the program to work on. In this case, I cropped and saved the panorama image as a psd file, then expanded the canvas, making sure to stretch it to the right, added a new layer, opened the offending photo, selected and copied it, and then pasted it into the new layer in the panorama.

It wasn’t a perfect match but the clone tool used on the top layer helped me smooth out the obvious joins. Since most of the join was sky and sea, this was fairly easy. You’d have a hard time of it with something detailed. Alternate between the underlying panorama image and the top layer to adjust your clone tool settings. Then I cropped the photo once more.

I had to resize the image and save it for the web to be sure that it wouldn’t overload bandwidth and might actually have a chance of displaying in its entirety on a web page. Click on the image above and it should open in a pop-up box.

What’s the story behind Petra tou Roumio? Cyprus has been a centre for the worship of Aphrodite and fertility and her earlier incarnations since even before Greek times. There’s a magical quality about the light at Petra tou Roumio, which lies at the southwestern point of the island. The bay is backed by white chalk cliffs. The whiteness of the chalk stretching under the sea gives the colour of the water a milky quality and also enhances the blue. The light is very bright.

The legend is that Aphrodite/Venus rose out of the sea here at the rocks, where the seed of her father Uranus fell into the ocean. For a most wonderful representation in art, see the Botticelli painting held in the Uffici Gallery in Florence, Italy.

First published 12th April

Dec 29 2008

Photos published in Schmap travel guides

I've had significant response from my Flickr photo account, with people contacting me to use photos for publication or as part of projects.

Today, I've heard from Schmap dynamic travel guides. Several of my photos, uploaded to Flickr and published under a Creative Commons licence, are being used in their guides to Paris and Florence.

I've downloaded the player and find that it's a well-integrated online map guide to hotels, restaurants, attractions, bars, museums, gardens etc to all sorts of places all over the world. Try it out.

This item was first published on 15th October 2006.

Dec 29 2008

Learning photography with the Canon EOS

I was inspired by the hype surrounding the release of an affordable digital SLR camera to go out and buy a Canon EOS 300D model early in 2004. I'd used Canon film cameras in Oman, which had come highly recommended, and decided to advance with technology.

I took the camera with me on a trip to Oman in March 2004. See the photos of Musandam, Iranian smugglers and Dubai at Oman Vistas. I was very pleased with the quality and the resolution although it seemed to me that the camera tended to underexpose shots.

It was only when I was actually in Musandam trying to take a photo of a kingfisher with my Sigma telephoto lens, which had worked perfectly well with my Canon EOS film camera, that I realised that there could be compatibility issues. The lens proved to be temperamental and although I managed to use it to take close-ups of the family at cricket in the 2005 season, I could not rely on it.

This year, I've had requests to use several of my photos on various of my websites, taken variously with a Pentax Optio 430 – see the Muscat, Grand Mosque and Nakhl folders at Oman Vistas, and a Nikon Coolpix 7900 – see my photos at Flickr – as well as the Canon EOS 300D. Although the Nikon claims to have a higher resolution than the Canon, at something like 7.3 megapixels per inch, plus it's small, compact and very handy, I couldn't get over the image quality produced by the Canon.

I felt it was time to develop my photography skills. After all, there's no point in having an expensive camera if you don't know how to use its full potential. Besides, I could see a market in selling my best photos on the web.

Canon outsources its training and information services in the UK respectively to Experience-Seminars and EOS magazine. I booked three courses held over three days last week on 'Making the Most of Your EOS' held at the Huntingdon training centre.

Initially, I was dubious about the cost. It seemed a little absurd to pay almost half as much again as the original cost of the camera body to learn what I should probably have been able to learn from the manual – but I learnt a great deal more than just how to use my camera. I also learnt basic photographic skills – shutter speed, aperture adjustment, depth of field, metering, how to use flash, and also some very basic Photoshop techniques which can bring out the most in a photograph. This is because the trainer is a professional photographer with years of experience.

And yes. Canon cameras work best with other Canon accessories and peripherals. Use dedicated Canon lenses and Canon printers to get the optimum results.

It didn't take long to work out that not only was my 300D now obsolete, but it was also the bottom of the range. Amongst those cameras brought to the seminars last week were four or five EOS 5Ds, which will set you back over £2,000, without the lenses and speedlites.

One lady, who is going on safari to Zambia in October, had brought her new EOS 350D, which impressed me with its smaller, lighter size.

The biggest problem that I could see with the 300D was its slowness. It takes four seconds to bring the camera out of sleep mode to take a photo, by which time, the photo opportunity has passed. This is particularly galling for sports and action photos because the camera takes so long to record to memory before another photo can be taken.

Thus I have been sufficiently motivated to upgrade to the new EOS 400D with 10 megapixels, virtually all the other settings offered by the more expensive cameras and a more compact size to boot. It's also costing less than what I paid for the 300D back in 2004.

Orchid, using evaluative metering, full flash

Orchid, using evaluative metering, full flash

Orchid, using partial metering, full flash

Orchid, using partial metering, full flash

Orchid, using partial metering and bounce flash

Orchid, using partial metering and bounce flash

As an example of what I learnt, here are three photos of an orchid taken with flash, all in P mode with ISO set at 400. One is taken with evaluative metering in full flash, another with partial metering in full flash and the third with partial metering in bounce flash. Unfortunately, I was still suffering from problems of underexposure by the camera – which I shall have to investigate – but I was able to redeem my errors by adjusting levels in Photoshop.

The third photo is by far the best. You see the petals of the orchids as you would if you looked at them in reality. Both the other two photos exhibit what I would call 'pearlisation' on the petals, which gives a false result. This is due to burnout (overexposure) on disparate details by the flash. The second photo displays total burnout in one area on one of the petals.

It's when you can see the visible results of what you have learnt and the added confidence that brings, that would make me thoroughly recommend this training.

This item was first published on 18th September 2006.

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