Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Just a little wine...

Ok! So a little while ago I started the ‘Challenge of the Century’. The idea of this was to create a photographic challenge with a learning objective and without a strong competitive element. This seemed to meet the general feeling of the group that I have picked up over the time I have been involved with it and I hope that we can continue with this. (In fact, pretty much as I am writing this, Mal has suggested taking shots of local landmarks each month to complete 'in camera'. I love this idea but would like to alternate this with a learning challenge so that we have variation to keep it fresh – Let me know what you think.)

The inspiration for the challenge was a mixture of requests from group members for a competition, and me considering how we can cover previous topics in a fresh light for new members, and refreshing the skills of those who have covered the topic before. Around the same time, a Digital Camera World tip for achieving a ‘bokeh’ effect appeared in my news feed which ‘hit’ the mark for considering ‘depth of field’.

Link to the article here.

Definition of Bokeh:
In photography, bokeh (Originally /ˈboʊkɛ/, /ˈboʊkeɪ/ BOH-kay — also sometimes pronounced as /ˈboʊkə/ BOH-kə, Japanese: [boke]) is the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a lens.Bokeh has been defined as "the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light".

We had a scenario set up for people to have a go at during the last meeting at Willowmere and I know that a few of you have also had a go at home. I decided that I wanted to have a go at the set up but didn’t have time on the night, so a home set up it was.

  The first thing that struck me during the whole process was how long such a simple sounding thing took! I had a bunch of grapes and always have wine around ;-) so I chose the title 'Bacchus Bokeh’ and set up a still life for the subject. I rubbed a little coconut oil on the grapes for a natural shine (I wanted to eat them later so didn’t fancy some of the alternatives) but found the length of time I took to set up the shot allowed the coconut oil to solidify by the time I got what I wanted and the shine turned dull (so don’t try that at home guys).

With a little bit of tweaking and a red light, the scene was set and I started to think about camera settings and here was the rub… this was the first time since using the DSLR that I have really needed the f2 that I used to have on my old Zenit SLR. To get the background anywhere near out of focus I had to have it on the other side of the kitchen to separate it from the subject. The best I could get is the first picture of the set (It is just cropped to tidy up the edges), where, really, the background still looks like scrunched foil. Not the effect I want, particularly as the whole idea of bokeh is to minimise the background, not create the ‘busy’ effect I achieved.

  So, based on the restrictions of my equipment I was going to have to resort to Photoshop. This then gave me more options. Before I ‘broke set’ I took an out of focus frame of the background only. The first thing I tried was selecting the subject from the original photo and placing it in in a layer above the out of focus background. This gave me the second image. Using a genuine shot as a background is useful as it avoids some of the artefacts that you can get with post processing software. It is a good idea to ensure that you match your settings as much as possible, particularly ISO so that the levels of ‘noise’ match.

  The third image has the same selection above a background which has had the PS bokeh effect applied and the fourth has the PS field blur applied.


  For my ‘two-pennith’ out of them all, I prefer the 2nd image  with the natural, out-of-focus background but although it was an interesting exercise which I recommend trying just because of

·         the way it makes you think about what you are trying to achieve

·         makes you consider what your camera is capable of

·         helps you focus (pardon the pun) on ‘depth of field’ and

·         is a great exercise for still life composition

 the image didn’t really encompass the best of bokeh. What was most fun? Trying to get the shot ‘in camera’ - a challenge which I will look for more opportunities for in the future. (Macro lens – here I come.) There’s more about bokeh in this link with some cool examples.

 And finally, here’s one of Alan’s from Alderley Edge which I particularly like and, by coincidence, there’s also another example of bokeh by a young photographer in my next blog on the award-winning images from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015, coming soon. Must stop now, there's not 'mush-room' for any more!

  Hope you like the idea of ‘Challenge of the Century’ and this blog. If you want to comment, please feel free. You may need to be on Google + to comment directly but if you want to pm me with a comment on fb I will post it for you. When commenting please remember this is about trying to improve the skills and experience of all of the group members, thank you. :-)

Now, where's that wine...

Friday, 18 September 2015


Working on getting enough funds for lots of fun things!

  The committee have had their meeting about fundraising and it was decided that besides applying for grants and funds from the CVSCE and other sources that the group would benefit if we had at least one major raffle a year with tickets available to all and a few more, regular, smaller ones for members.
  The larger raffle will require members to use any contacts they have with local businesses to get them to support our group. This time round I will be contacting Morrison's, Tesco and some of the smaller shops that are left in the town to see whether they will be able to donate a prize.  I will also try my luck with Creativelive and Udemy. Phil Tomlinson has already very kindly offered to donate a canvas print of a picture (MANY thanks Phil) and I hope that if any of you know any business that might like to donate, that you enquire to see what they might be able to offer. If we can get the prizes set up for the beginning of October we can sell tickets for the first two/three weeks in October. I can provide a standard letter requesting a donation for the raffle if you need one.
  We will also be having smaller, in-house, raffles for cakes, used photography books etc. that members have donated at some of our regular meetings.
  Some of the money raised from these activities will go towards printing costs of all-occasion cards and/or Christmas cards. The sales of which will again bring in more  funds. I will set up a few suitable sections of our Flickr group for you to put forward the images which you think are suitable for use and you do not mind be used in this manner. If your images are chosen, you will not be losing your copyright, just signing a form to agree to our printing of your image for the purpose of raising funds for the group. Your name as photographer and the groups id as a not-for-profit charity will appear on the cards. A range of pictures will be chosen, ie. a set of insect cards seems likely given the output of recent weeks.
  Please let me know if you can help with any of this. It is very important for the group.
Many thanks,
Mel Smith

Upcoming Opportunities!!

 I have so much to say...

..or as Dave W might put it, "She can 'narf talk, that Mel." :-)

I was so pleased with the way the meeting went on Wednesday, particularly the sort of discussion that was going on and the feedback from the audience was very welcome. It is so important for the group to be exactly that, a group! People with an interest to get more out of their photography and technology, who want to work together to help each other do exactly that.

  As a relief from all of my chatter, there were a couple of tutorials and practicals aimed at helping you get ready for the next photo outing and hone your 'camera settings' skills. Mal has very kindly written a few comments about the evening which can be found here. (Links to the two tutorials are also available on this page too.) The practical activities are something that I feel we should do more of and your feedback seemed to indicate that you agree with this which is great.

  During the evening I mentioned a lot of outings and opportunities that were coming up for the group. The next outing which Dave is currently arranging, should be an opportunity to photograph radio controlled models. Date to be announced ASAP.

  There is also the potential of going down Woods Mine at Alderley Edge. Alan and I went down there a couple of weeks ago (sans camera so can only provide a couple of phone shots I'm afraid) but there were a couple of interesting 'waterfalls' where the copper deposits have left beautiful green and blue trails on the rocks and a large cavern where we can do some light painting.
When I mentioned this the interest was good so I will now go ahead and start making arrangements. I am suggesting the afternoon of Saturday 14th November as the first Saturday in the month (which we usually do) will clash with fireworks events. The price is £6 a head and I will need the money when you put your name down for the event. I will start collecting from confirmation of the date. This outing, as indeed any other, will also be made available to Middlewich Photographers. Money will be refunded if the club has to cancel the event due to lack of interest. If somebody doesn't turn up then the fee will usually be forfeited depending on circumstances. Certainly any cost to the group will have to be deducted. Myself or Kyla will also investigate the chance of a warm fire and snacks in the Wizard afterwards.

  On the subject of light painting, I believe that Bill Armsden is going to do a local walk about in Middlewich one night in the autumn with the intention of doing some lightpainting so when I find out a date I will let you know. I know that everyone who went last year had a great time and loved their photos afterwards.

In December, we will be looking at 'light on skin' at Willowmere Meeting and our outing will be the Christmas meal.

The final opportunity is that Ian Hill Smith has invited any member of the group to consider showing their photos for sale in his Artspace. Phil Tomlinson kindly gave us more information on this and has a service where you can get your photos printed for this purpose (and other forms of display). I suggest that he is one of your first ports of call if you want to check your image is of the right technical quality to print. (How about a blog on it Phil? - hint, hint :-) )

Like I said, lots of opportunities, lots of chatter!