Saturday, January 31, 2009

Van, theodolite, and the bolt from hell!

Being the owner of a van I sometimes get asked by friends to move things, the odd sofa, a few dining chairs, oil drilling rig etc etc!. I don't mind, after all if you can't ask a friend who can you ask? Besides over the years friends have done plenty of favors for me, so I'm just giving back a little.
One of my dear friends Jai asked me to move a few things for her a couple of weeks ago, part of this involved a trip to the local rubbish tip, although in practice we never actually needed to go there. In the rubbish she was throwing out was a theodolite tripod, one of those things used in surveying, a big solid tripod! Now being a canny photographer I thought this might come in useful. my first thought being maybe a lighting stand, or background support.
After scrounging it I remembered I had a spare tripod head laying around, I figured it wouldn't be too difficult to mate the two together and bingo! a photography tripod..... well not quite that simple I'm afraid.
You see to fit the tripod head to the base I needed the right size thread bolt, in this case a 3/8 th whitworth bolt about 2.5 inches long, and that proved to be the flaw in my otherwise brilliant plan, you see we went metric a while back and could I find a whitworth bolt? could I heck as like!
Thankfully another good friend Andrew came through for me, last night I came home to find the bolt from hell posted through my letterbox, a bit of work with a hacksaw to make a spacer plate for the tripod head out of polycarbonate, and job done.
Total cost, the bolt (I still owe Andrew for that) a cut finger, and a bloody shirt, all in all not badfor a really solid tripod. Thanks to both of you! Wayne

Friday, January 30, 2009

Skylight filters???

There's been a lot of debate on the Internet forums recently about the use of skylight filters on your cameras lens.
There's two schools of thought, they go like this.
One. Fitting a bit of cheap glass in front of my expensive lens is just lowering the quality of it.
Two. Fitting a bit of thin optical glass close to the front element, doesn't significantly affect the quality but offers protection to the lens.
Now I'm firmly in the second camp, on two separate occasions I have saved a lens from serious damage by having a filter on the front. The other advantage is now it's OK to clean the filter with your shirt corner, or your pocket hanky. Yes I know we shouldn't really use those, but come on be honest, how many of us have done it some time or other?? I thought so!
So fit a filter and next time you get a bit of rain, dust, mud, dead badger etc on your filter just clean it off with no worries about scratching your expensive lens. Wayne

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Red Dwarf!

Yippee!!!!! News has reached my bunker that the TV series Red Dwarf is to return to our screens in the spring. Our hero's were left in limbo nine years ago, by the rather odd ending. Now it seems that's to be put right, the "guys from the Dwarf are coming home!" Four new programs are to be shown in April (all being well) with two final episodes, and two documentary style programs.

Based on a radio program Dave Hollins space Cadette and written by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, the story is basically the odd couple in space, the program won an Emmy in 1994.

"Smoke me a kipper, I'll be back for breakfast!" Wayne

Monday, January 26, 2009

Toast and HDR's

I was standing in the kitchen earlier waiting for the toaster to pop up the toast, when it occurred to be toasters haven't changed much in about 60 years. Think about it, our cars are unrecognisable now compared to then, engine management systems, anti lock breaks, traction control, fuel injection etc etc, but your average everyday toaster is still pretty much the same as it was back then. Most still rely on a bit of metal bending when it gets hot to release the toast, hardly earth shattering technology is it.

Come on USA give us some area 51 alien technology toasters!

Todays photo is a HDR (high dynamic range) there a few different ways of doing this, but simply put you combine images exposed for the highlight, midtones and shadows.Here I have shot in RAW format and made 3 different versions of the original, and combined them in Dynamic photo HDR. The idea is to pull back shadow detail and make a striking image at the same time. Wayne

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A few pics

Here are a few more photos from my walk the other day, a black and white, and a fake colour infra-red.
Both Taken near-ish The steel works at Port Talbot. Enjoy Wayne

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Boy was I wrong about Obama

Yep I'll admit it I was so wrong about Barack Obama. First off I said he'll never get elected! I firmly believed a country like America which still had segregation up until April 1968 (Civil Rights Bill bans discrimination in housing.) would never elect an African American to office. I was wrong!.
Then after the election I firmly believed he'd never live to be sworn in, in a country where dogs can buy Uzi sub machine guns, and for many racists feelings still run deep, I thought he'd probably get shot! Again I was wrong!.
When Obama first appeared on the campaign trail I thought to myself, at last a man for the job. An intelligent, youthful, committed serious man capable of being the world leader America needs...... Until he spoke that was! For pity sake! the man only had a few lines to repeat, and he couldn't even get that right.
The wedding vows are much longer and harder, but ordinary people manage those every day. Here was a man destined to be in charge of the most powerful country in the world, a man with his finger on the nuclear trigger, and he can't even repeat a few lines? Heaven help us. Me, I'm digging a bunker!

On to today's images. I went walkies yesterday, making the most of the fine weather, I actually took quite a few pics, but here's a sample. Reeds, the leaning tower and Who say's water and electricty don't mix? Enjoy. Wayne

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hooray RAM that works! (at last)

A few weeks ago I mentioned that my PC wouldn't accept the new extra RAM I bought for it. When my brother came over and had a look (he's the tech) he found out that it would only accept matched pairs of RAM, you can't put just one extra stick in like most other PC's. Anyway to cut a long story short he turned up this evening with a matched pair of extra RAM sticks, I now have all four slots filled, it does make a difference too.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A fishy problem.

Last week, I was asked by a friend of a friend to take a look at his photos of tropical reef fish, pick the best 50 out and edit them for a picture library. Easy peasy! you say. Well not quite, you see the problem starts with the fact that I know about as a much about fish as I do about structural engineering with cheese!
I know for example that Mackerel are stupid enough to be caught by putting feathers on your fish hook. I also know that Goldfish don't live very long, especially those unlucky enough to be looked after by me, indeed were I to even go swimming near a tropical reef whole species of fish would become extinct.
I know that my favorite fish by far is the Cod, served up by Captain Birdeye. Sadly what I don't know about fish would fill several large warehouses. And there lies the problem, to edit the pictures properly, you need to know what they are supposed to actually look like, and I haven't the foggiest idea.
Oh I did my best, they look great to me, ok the spiny seahorse (or whatever it's called) isn't spiny any more (well how was I suppose to know?) but it looked better to me, all those "lumpy" bits gone.
Somehow I don't think there's much future in this, and me saying "do you ever spear any of them?" to the photographer/conservationist probably hasn't helped much either.

Monday, January 19, 2009

You want what for your birthday!

It's my youngest sons birthday on Friday, he'll be the ripe old age of thirteen.
I asked him what he wanted a few days ago, expecting a play station/x box game, or maybe a new bigger bike (his is miles to small now) things like that. But oh no! he had other ideas. No he wants a machine gun!, not any old one mind, one with a sniper scope, under slung grenade launcher, and laser target marker.
Now if I lived in the Gaza strip, or maybe the Helmand Province of Afghanistan, it would be a realistic choice of present, trouble is we live in Baglan, Port Talbot, a fairly sleepy friendly village sort of place. Or at least it is at the moment, but it won't be for long if my son gets the present he wants.
Fortunately for us all British gun laws are among the tightest in the world (although you might be forgiven for thinking otherwise if you live in South London) So he won't be getting a machine gun, well not unless it's made of plastic and comes from a toy shop!

On to todays Image, it's nothing very exciting a waterfall near Brecon Wales. Wayne

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Prisoner is dead.

It is with real sadness I have to report the Prisoner is dead. Patrick McGoohan (80) who played the irrepressible no6 in the TV series the prisoner, passed away on Tuesday. Patrick who was born in New york, died in Los Angles.
His roles included, Danger man 1960, The Prisoner 1967, but is more recently remembered for his role as Edward Longshanks in Braveheart 1995. He played many other roles, including Columbo for which he won an Emmy, he was actually in a total of 4 episodes.
He was first choice for both Gandalf in the "Lord of the Rings, and Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films, and also turned down the parts of James Bond, and the Saint, he briefly revived his Prisoner role for an episode of the Simpons 1989.
He leaves a wife and 3 children. Wayne

Photoshop Actions

Heres an image I have used a photoshop action on, I used one of the Totally Rad action sets. These are four sets of actions, with lots of different effects.
The shot was taken in Margam park last summer. Wayne

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sharpening digital images

I'm going to talk about sharpening here, there's some confusion among photographers about whether to sharpen or not, and if so how? So I'm going to try and make this a little clearer.
First of all almost all digital camera images need sharpening in post process, some more that others. If you shoot RAW format they will defiantly need to be sharpened, if you shoot JPEG then maybe not as much.
Digital images are made up of pixels, they come off the sensor as a mosaic, the process of de-mosaicing tends to blur any sharp edges slightly, almost all camera also have an anti-alias filter over the sensor, this is a sort of diffuser filter, it's there to help the Bayer pattern on most sensors. Sampling used in digital cameras has a tendency to produce colored artifacts and moire patterns on small detail. By blurring the light slightly so that multiple photosites get some of the information from a particular detail, this lessens the chance that these hard-to-remove artifacts appear. Unfortunately, it also has a further tendency to make edges less distinct.
If your shooting JPEG the camera takes the interpolated data from the sensor, de-mosaics it, adds some sharpening (to compensate for the AA filter) and some noise reduction, applies the colour balance set on the camera and you get your image.
If on the other hand your shooting RAW format, all the camera does is pretty much keep the data as it is, no in camera sharpening is applied, regardless of your camera setting, that's why RAW needs more sharpening.
When you sharpen a ditital image you aren't really sharpening it, what your actually doing is altering the edge contrast to give the impression of a sharper picture. That's why if you over sharpen you tend to get halos around things.
On CSI and similar programs you'll often see the team take a still shot for a poor quality video, click a few buttons and Bingo! they can read the serial number on the perps Rolex. The reality is somewhat different, if the shots blurry, then it's blurry, you can tweak the edge contrast (sharpen) as much as you like but a really blurry photo is just going to look worse blown up.
Many serious photographers favor a three stage sharpen, first a light capture sharpen, just to put back the sharpness lost by the AA filter etc. Next a creative sharpen, this might be all over sharpening, or it might be a selective sharpen, say just the eyes in a portrait, something you want to draw attention to, this can vary a lot, a portrait might need a lot less sharpening than a rusty statue etc. The final stage is the output sharpen, this is taylored to the type of output (web/print etc) and the final image size.
In Photoshop theres a number of ways to sharpen, unsharp mask, smart sharpen, then you could use a LAB sharpen (using one of the channels in lab mode) Theres luminosity sharpen, or you could combine a few. Theres just too many ways to go through here, I'd recomend unsharp mask, or better still a photoshop plug-in, PK sharpener, it does cost $99 but it's well worth it. Wayne

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


On Wednesday I went to a meeting, while there a guy showed me a video on his laptop, it consisted of a blue car on one of those rolling road thingies, with water pouring out of a pipe and spilling over the car onto the floor. So what you say, well you see it was all done totally on the computer. No video footage, just computer graphics, and it was damm good!
This got me thinking yesterday, how far we have come technology wise.
Homo erectus appeared around 2.2 million years (it's claimed). Man as we know him Homo sapiens sapiens, was much later, only about 130.000 years ago. For thousands of years nothing much changed, ok we invented the wheel (and some are still trying to re-invent it) but by and large nothing much happened. Then we had the industrial revolution, from the late 1700's man started switching from manual-labour-based economy towards machine-based manufacturing. This in turn led to the industrial revolution proper, with canals, steam engines etc etc.
Where is this going you ask? well it's simple really.
Just over a hundred years ago, The Wright brothers were "flying" at Kity Hawk, the first ever manned aircraft (there are disputed claims), people had gas lighting, and generally rode around in carriages pulled by horses. Big machines were powered by steam, and an ocean crossing was a perilous adventure. Jump forward a hundred years, everybody has a car, Atlantic flights are commonplace and surprisingly safe, man has walked on the moon (again disputed). We have home computers that even 50 years would have taken up several office blocks to do the same job, (your mobile phone has more computing power than than Neil Armstrongs Luna lander had) Spotty 15 year olds are writing viruses and programs that in WW2 would have cracked the Inigma coding machine faster than you can say knife!
If all this can happen in just a hundred years, whats going to happen in the next hundred?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Public transport......

Today I had to go to a meeting in Swansea, as this was going to be the best part of the day, and as Swansea only actually has two parking spaces, and one of those is for disabled, I decided to use public transport.
You get spoiled using a car, it's door to door, it's quick it's clean, it's efficient. Public transport on the other hand is none of those! I spent twenty five minutes waiting and wondering if I had missed the bus, or worse if it would bother to turn up at all (many don't here) Then I traveled into Swansea sitting next to a man called Derek who was suicidally depressed, smelt like a chain smoker, and was slightly odd. On a filthy scruffy bus!.
The return journey wasn't a lot better, this time I sat next to a man called Barry, who I suspect was a serial killer out on day release from his two week sentence, whatever he was barking mad.
This is the problem with public transport, it's full of the public, the man behind me coughed as though dying of consumption, MP3 players played their tinny crap, Mobile phones rang, and a clinically obese woman opposite laughed about the fact she had eaten eight chocolate eclairs for lunch. I thought she'd eaten the shop!.
The fact is nobody should travel by public transport, it's dirty, unreliable, and hopelessly expensive, a six mile nightmare journey cost me £4.20 return, that works out at about £126 for a trip to London, I can fly there cheaper!
And they wonder why people won't ditch their cars in favor of public transport, no chance!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Mountains and Beaches

Here are a few photos for you, one is taken on mount Snowdon, the other is taken at three cliffs beach.
The 3 cliffs shot is a double image, this was done to show you don't have to use a shot as it's taken. Here I have used free transform to turn the original (landscape) image into a portrait shape.
The Snowdon shot (taken on my compact) was taken to show the weather there, and that was summer. In winter great care should be taken there, or indeed anywhere in the mountains. Llanberis mountain rescue team, who cover that area get a surprisingly large number of call outs, they have dealt with over 8o call outs this year so far, and it's still only mid January, on May day last year they managed 8 call outs in one day.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Adobe Photoshop CS4

Well I have had this for a few weeks now and thought I'd give you my impressions.

I really don't like the tabbed images layout (and it seems I'm not alone) it wouldn't be so bad if you could turn them off, but although there is an option to turn it off it still tabs the first image, so it's not really off is it Adobe!

I also dislike the new pallet system, if they stayed where you put them it would be great, but sadly if you click on one it minimises the others, not ideal, please Adobe bring back the old pallets, or give us the option of locking these open.

While I'm in critic mode, it's heavy on RAM, it really needs a compatible video card for the GPU acceleration to work. Some people don't like the lighter grey background (although you can change that) And for the life on me I can't understand why the took out the extract filter, pattern maker etc etc.

Looking on the plus side, the new version of ACR (camera raw) has some great new features, more in line with Lightroom, although there is one curious anomaly that most people will never find, and it's jolly usefull. No I'm not going to tell you, find it yourself, I'll give you a clue though, look at the preview options in the different tabs, most only show the changes on that tab, one however will show you all the changes.

The content aware scalling is a very clever tool, but it does need a certain type on image to work well, and if your a clever so and so you could get the same effect with a bit of free transform.

Overall impressions, is it worth the upgrade from CS3? personally I'd say no. Wayne

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A funny thing happened to me on the way to my e.mail

Well I mentioned my PC has been down with problems, after getting it working I needed to phone BT (my ISP) for my e.mail details to reset it, this proved an interesting experience.
I rang them up at the number given and got through to the "book a tech" department, not what I wanted, I just needed a simple code. They however offered to pass me over to tech support (and this is where the story really starts)
I got through to a lovely young lady, very pleasant, I explained my computer had crashed and I needed some details from her, and she sounded confused! I repeated my request with more details, at this point she asked what room I was in, now I got confused. I pointed out I was at my computer and that I just needed the settings. At this point she asked who I thought I was talking to, I replied "tech support!" "no" she said, "your talking to reception at the Hilton Hotel Los Angles", but she said it beautifully! Wayne

Funny old day

It's been a bit of a funny old day today, I seem to have had tons to do, I had to make a slide show, but of course my slide show software went with the format, so I had to find it and re-install, now I have just realised my labeling software's gone as well so I'll have to find that next.

Then theres been bills to pay, and jobs around the house, that sadly wont do themselves.

On to the image, heres another version of one of the waterfall images, this time a black and white version. Enjoy. Wayne

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Bad day.

Yep I had a rubbish day today my PC has been slowing down lately, it's been getting worse and worse, the odd crash (not unusual with windoze) anyway I ran my anti virus, which found nothing (and is about as much use as a cheese aqualung) Then my brother suggested another malware remover, this found 22 viruses. Hip Hip hooray I thought... but no it's never quite that simple for me, you see when it removed the viruses, it removed something important, I don't know quite what but on reboot I got the infamous blue screen of death, and it stayed that way!
Luckily for me I have a brother who in a past life was a computer tech, he came over after my screams down the phone (and a few threats lol) and although he tried to recover things it was too far gone, and we had to format the b****y thing.
Luckily I have a nasty suspicious habit of backing things up. Yes it's a royal pain in the arse to reinstall everything, but at least my paranoia meant I didn't really loose anything important. And here's a lesson to you all, BACK UP! you never know when lightning will strike, or a flood, or more lightly some git writing a virus (oh for 5 minutes alone with him!!) At least all my images are safe, and that's the main thing. Wayne

Monday, January 5, 2009

It was only a winters morning....

Don't worry, I'm not about to break into song... too many windows and glass things around here for my outstanding voice to SHATTER!
However this nicely leads me into today's images, after shopping for the dreaded school uniforms (No not for me!! Doh!) I decided to go walkabout with my camera, I headed for the falls near Glyn Neath (Wales) sadly the name of this one escapes me at the moment, but I have been told it's frozen up, well it wasn't totally frozen as you can see, but I gather it's been better a few days ago and I missed it. Enjoy. Wayne

Friday, January 2, 2009

Why is nothing simple!

Well why isn't it? I bought some RAM today for my computer, but the PC just refuses to see it, it's supposed to be compatible but not according to my b****y PC it's not!

On too the pics, while I was visiting PC world I did a bit of Ubexing (urban exploring) here are some of the shots I got, enjoy! Wayne

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year

May I take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy New Year, and health wealth, and prosperity.

Whats been happening in the Wayne household you ask? (ok you didn't really but I'll tell you anyway) Well to be honest, not a lot, I have had a quiet-ish couple of days. Truth be told, I'm still feeling a bit off colour from this flu thing.

Yesterday I thought it was time I got out in the fresh air and got some exercise, I went down Penard for a walk, I was going to go to Pwl-du beach, but I couldn't find anywhere near-ish to park and gave up (I'm still not up to a big walk) So I ended up on the cliffs at Penard (Gower, Wales) I took my camera of course, although the light was a bit sad and misty I still got a few shots.

Here is a pic, I liked the lighting here. More to follow. Wayne