Saturday, 22 July 2017

El Potty

Today I found I would not be winning Landscape Photographer of the year.

In terms of shocks this ranks with Walsall not winning the Champions league or Donald Trump not winning mastermind.

To be honest, I pontificated long and hard about even entering. Not because I was not sure whether i would win, that was a given, but because I felt in doing I would be be forced to compromise my beliefs  in entering images that in truth I did not really believe in.

My feeling is that we are coming to the point where landscape photography in particular needs to be redefined.  While taking a great image is never easy, it is far easier than it was 5,10, 20, 50 years ago. The technology available to even photographers of modest means is now so good it will forgive a multiple of sins. I always feel slightly embarrassed when a judge congratulates mean on, say holding the shadows back. I never have the heart to tell them that I just pressed the button and fixed the rest in Lightroom.

That is the other thing. Nowadays anyone can manipulate their raw image to the nth degree in ways that Ansel Adams would of sold his soul for.

Of course there is still the skill needed to understand composition, depth of field, etc. But the bar has come down to the point where often a great photo has more to do withy chance and opportunity than the skill of the artist.

And what we are left with?

1000's of pixel perfect identikit images of landscapes. To illustrate the point, try and remember what last year LPOTY winning images look like.  I could only remember 2 or 3.

There was the winner and some of Rachael Talibart  great wave shots(if you think taking pictures of waves is easy, you have never tried it)

Not that I ma saying there is anything wrong with the other entries. It is just that they blend into a general milieu of identikit images that stick in you mind for fractions of a second. The problem is that image perfection is just to easy to achieve. Imagine a world consisting of identikit barbie clones, however gorgeous they are none will stand out and suddenly it is imperfection that becomes redefined as standard of beauty.

Art has faced these challenges before.  Before photography  landscape painting had reached a nadir of perfection. Then came along the ability for anyone to take a image as good as a Dutch master.  This forced painting to explore a different route such as impressionism and abstraction. Suddenly it was not good enough to produce an image, but instead the artist could explore what an image is and how it interacts with the viewer.

Terry Pratchett said it best when describing what a silver pendent shaped like a horse looked like.

 "Taint what a horse looks like, it’s what a horse be."

That is what a great landscape photograph should be in the age of  smart cameras, google AI and sub-pixel digital manipulation.  Not an faithful image of the landscape, however stunning, but what the image represents, feels, echoes, reflects to the artist and viewer. It should burrow below the purely visual and instead interact with the emotional side of the psyche .

With one of those weird karma coincidences I today received Andy Gray's landscape edition today. I don't know whether Andy enters LPTOY, but if these were the sort of images winning the competition I would have a lot more confidence and respect for it. However I doubt they would. They just don't fulfill what the general public feel what a landscape photograph is, but they are far more memorable  and interesting than many that probably will win.

So with all this why did I enter in the end? 

Well, I had £25 that I wanted to flush down the toilet and this seemed a good way of doing it (My daughter calls it El Potty which I find both amusing and representative). Actually that's a lie (before people start asking for free handouts). The truth is I wanted to test myself and the waters. If I got shortlisted, it would mean the direction I am moving is both valid and convergent with the way photography is now moving.

Of course I did not get short listed, so I am none the wiser, but it was worth a punt (or a pony). I still firmly believe however that at some point the what a landscape photograph is needs to be redefined, I just wonder when those judging will come to understand this

My LPOTY images

These are my entries

These were entered in the urban view

 This is the Art tower of University of Sheffield. I love the feeling of infinity and in some ways perhaps I should remove the logo and make if difficult for the viewer to tell whether we are looking up or down.

This is one of my favorite images. It is a reflection  of a empty shop in Birmingham's jewellery quarter and i love the juxtaposition between the outside world and inside the shop where time is at a standstill

I have been playing around with layering and multiple exposure. This is a grandstand in a park in Sheffield and I took several images while walking around it, the layered them. I love the dynamic movement of what is a static object and the feel of solidity in a changing landscape.

These were my your view entries

This one did well in both sharemondays and wexmondays so it had to go in. It was taken in-camera using a polariser  to blend the reflections of spring time trees with Autumn leaves at the bottom of the pool. The effect again plays with time and the how we perceive  trees

I have been playing a lot with barley and corn fields recently. I have been trying to capture the movement of the fields as the wind blows them where they almost look like the swell of the sea. This was a barley field where i used ICM to add dynamism to the barley heads.

 This was taken in Padley Gorge in Autumn. It was a fantastic misty day, and I wanted to add a touch of suspense and mystery to the path. What it probably needs is a girl in a red cape walking in the distance :)

This was my sole classic view photo, taken at surprise view on a particular great cloud inversion day. In truth it was the image I was least comfortable submitting, but I had a spare go, so I went with convention.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Judge and Jury for the day

Anyone who has ever had their photograph judged will know the feeling. of your eyes slowly rotating into your eye sockets as the judge chooses another photo with seemingly little artistic merit, while overlooking your photographic masterpiece. In the inevitable post-mortem at the pub later, the losers discuss the judges obvious lack of understanding of basic photography (while the winner obviously tries to make a case for the opposite)

Well, on Monday I had the opportunity to be a judge for a day as my prize for winning the previous weeks #Sharemondays competition.

So how did it go?

Firstly, I had not exactly been looking forward to it. It meant that a lot of strangers were relying on me to carry on the mantle of the competition. What if I made a cock up of it ? Would it mean I would be for ever castigated by other twitter photographers as the person who killed #Sharemondays?

On the Monday, I started watching as the entries rolled in. It is here that I hit my first issue. Twitter is in many ways a great platform, but for a application which is used by millions world wide it has its quirks.

One of these is its search capabilities.

I had assumed it would be quite easy to filteron the required hashtag within a certain date range, but when I went through advanced search and set the search criteria as the required hashtag and the date range as the day before Monday and the Monday of the competition, I got absolutely nothing. My response was "you have to be fecking kidding me"

It took me a while to find out it only seemed to work if the end date was missed off. Once that was worked out I could see the entries for that Monday. On Tuesday I made the conscious decision to stay off social media for the rest of the day. When i got home, I did the search again, and created a  twitter moments of all the entries.

Twitter moments is a nice way of creating a collection of tweets together. It also allows you to filter those tweets that have either been incorrectly tagged with #sharemondays or have attempted to hijack the feed.

I however quickly hit an issue. In moments, like the main twitter, you can filter the tweets  using a search criteria such as tag and date range. I used the same one I was using on the main twitter feed and it came up with a selection of images. Good I thought, this will easy. It was only when i started going through them I noticed some images from the main feed were missing. It was clear that the two search strings gave a different selection of images.

"You have to be double fecking kidding me" I thought.

I therefore I had to manually go through the twitter feed adding in entries the moments search had missed. Still by 6 O'Clock I had what I thought was the complete list and published the moment and went for dinner.

Except I hadn't.

Two people contacted me to say their's were missing and they were right. For reasons only known to Twitter, some images, although tagged correctly, did not show up. It makes you wonder how many entries from the other twitter competition feeds never get seen for the same reasons. Still to this day I cannot guarantee that I got them all. All I can say is that I tried my best. I did however have a dream a few days later in which total strangers accosted me in the street complaining I would not look at their photos.

Armed with the most complete list I could compile, I went about judging them.

I had thought quite a bit in the previous week about how to judge the images. Judging them on a purely technical level seemed pointless. The photographers would range from ability to beginner to pro. For some it would be like assessing a Picasso by looking at the brush strokes.  Anyway one of my bugbears with competition judges is their tendency to concentrate on the minutiae imperfections , but not the image as a whole, something I was determined not to do.

Instead I decided to use two criteria. Firstly did the image resonate with me? The image needed to to have some sort of connection at a quite instinctive level. Secondly, was it an image I wished I could of taken? I must admit that my judgement may of been colored by my own desire to push the boundaries of what I consider photography, so I was looking for the same criteria in others.

Maybe these are not the best criteria to judge photos and it would make the choice a very personal one, but it was the only way I felt I could do it.

The first task was to filter the 80 or so images down to a short list of 4. In truth I could of chosen double that number, and I tried to include a wide range of images and genre's in the final 4.

Then we had to choose the winner. In hindsight, this was easier than I made out, since the eventually winner had stood out from virtually the 1st time I saw it. However I had to go through the process to ensure that I was choosing the right image for the right reasons.

So did the correct the image win?

Well in one way yes, since it was only my decision to give and therefore it does not matter if people agree or disagree with it. Of course, one of the problems basing the decision on a instinctive like or dislike, is that another image may of made it on another day. In other words, at the end of the day judging will always be subjective and while its nice to win, not being chosen does not in anyway de-value your work. Its just one person out of 6 billion opinion.

Now its over, I have to say I quite enjoyed the process. I learnt a lot about assessing other photos and a little about how the criteria I use to assess my own images. Of course the big question is, now I have been a judge for a day, will that mean I will have more sympathy for people judging my own work?

Simple answer.....Nah.


Saturday, 1 April 2017

Twitter Mondays

One of the conundrums of being a amateur photography enthusiast is how do you promote your images to a wider world.

Obviously there are sites like flickr, 500px, instagram and youpic to name but 4, but they are a bit of a hit and miss affair. On any day your images will get subsumed by the outpourings from other photographers, making it difficult for your image to rise above the inevitable noise

Of course there is always Facebook. However unless you have a page dedicated to photography you're audience will largely be formed from your friends and relatives. While likes are always nice, they provide little in photography critique.

Somewhat better are the photo contest websites such as Photocrowd or DPReview's challenge pages. Here the problem is the lack of immediacy of feedback. It can take weeks to get any metric on how well your image has been received

I have however in recent months been using to twitter to show off my photos.

Now twitter has its issues, but it had the advantage  brevity and simplicity  and immediacy. It allows you to join a community of photographers from beginners to professionals.

There are also  a number of competition twitter feeds that you can send your images to. All you need to do is tag your post with specific hashtags. Every week one of the selected images are chosen for a shortlist and an overall winner. The advantage here is that feedback is quick and in some cases there are even prizes for the winning image. Best of all your photos are shared and  seen by the wider community of photographers following twitter.

Generally the photo are required to be entered on a Monday and the image must of been taken in the previous week which has a number of advantages and disadvantages for me.

Since most of my photography occurs at a weekend, it can be a challenge to take, process and filter photos by Monday. On the plus side it means any images do not sit on the hard drive for too long. Another bonus with these contests is that it pushes you to go out and provide images each week, so stopping you fall into apathy

I have been doing 3 specific competitions ones for a few months now with the hashtags


The contests attract a good number of very fine photographers and Wexmondays has a rolling leaderboard.

To be honest the fun has been taking part and I had little hope of getting anywhere in them. What was more gratifying was the compliments and likes from many photographers I admire.

That is till this Monday

This photo got not only shortlisted on Wexmondays, but actually won sharemondays (Unfortunately the prize for the latter is to judge the next Mondays entries, which is actually a quite terrifying prospect)

Here is the back story about the image

As I said weekends are generally the only time I can take regularly photos and almost all the weekends this year have been disappointing. However this time the Saturday forecasts promised early mists, so I decided to make a special effort to get out early and for once the forecast was accurate and the area was covered in mist, with just a hint of the sun trying to burn through.

The next problem was where to go. I had decided to head for some local woods lying on top of a hill in the hope of getting some misty tree shots. However by the time I arrived, the mist was already burning off, so I was forced to locate somewhere at a lower altitude where I hoped to take some images of the sun shining through the mist creating fingers through the trees, but there was nothing really happening, apart from a few daffodils caught against the mist.

I then noticed a patch of stagnant water in the woods.  I played around taking a few images of the trees reflections and as I did so I tried adjusting my polariser to increase the contrast.  As I did so, I noticed that the fallen leaves from last Autumn were slowly were appearing making it look like the leaves were on the reflected bare trees branches.

Hmmm, interesting

, I thought

I took a few more shots of this, decamped to some other locations such as the local river and the local power station, and went back home. To be honest at this point I was a little disappointed with my mornings work, feeling I had not made the best of the conditions.

However when I started flicking through them on the computer  the reflection one stood out as more interesting than the rest. I flipped the image and, cropped it and increased the saturation of the leaves.

On Monday I had to decide which images to put forward. I always find this difficult, but one thing I found is to go with instinct and not second guess yourself. Fortunately since it was late Monday I had little time for self doubts (I am one of these people who needs a hard deadline as a motivator).
In the end It came down to a choice of playing safe or trying something a little different so went with the latter (there is no reason why I could not choose 3 different images, one for each contest, but I had no time that night so the same image went to all three twitter feeds ).

I almost sent this one in....

I did not think anything of it until Tuesday afternoon when my phone started buzzing with the tweet responses and I had one of those double take moments as I realised one of the photos taken was mine.

With hindsight, In many ways I am pleased that I chose this photo because it reinforces a decision I made 6 months ago. I felt that my images were becoming too 'safe'. I had decided I wanted to improve both my wildlife and landscape skills, so started taking images that fitted both genres. While I had some limited success,  I was not really happy with the photographs I was taking. I felt in some way they were derivative and fake, trying to be someone I am not  In the end there is only one thing worse than people not liking your images, and that is if you do not like them yourself.

So I decided to stop trying to please other people, and start making images that I felt reflected me even if that meant I would have less in success in club photo competitions.  Ironically, these twitter contest successes has in someway justified my decision.

So the lesson here is becoming good at photography is more than just producing pleasant images ,but it is forming your style that that identifies and defines who you are as a photographer. These image may not always be appreciated, but they will always be yours.

In that I don't think I am alone as this great talk by Valda Bailey shows

Monday, 27 March 2017

Photographic Show 2017

Don't laugh. One day your cameras will be here too

Every year, I declare that I will not be going to the annual UK photographic show. However like a Caribou following the herd, I again found myself driving down a rain sodden M6 to the industrial wasteland which goes by the name NEC to find new and innovative ways to burn holes in my credit card.

This year I had even fewer excuses than normal to go. I have lenses My lens that cover most of my needs from a stonking zoom through a decent macro and ending up with reasonable wide angle. I am still getting to grips with my Sony A6000, and my DSLR, while long in the tooth and probably need of an upgrade is going OK. In short I had no real reason to go

That last paragraph is in fact a total lie.

follow the light......
One of the curses of photography is that you never stop thinking that you are only a new lens or body from becoming that world beating photographer I want to be. Problem is I have just about exhausted the relative cheap options. Any improvement in lens or cameras will require the spending f serious amounts cash. To spend the amounts I would need to do to get any significant improvement would require considerable amount of research and thought and definitely something you don't want to do in a whim in a show like this.

As for the show itself? Well I have two big issues with this photographic show.

Firstly the show likes to present itself as a festival of photography and you would imagine that with so many photographers in attendance the organizers would take the opportunity to celebrate photography in all its forms.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

In truth it is glorified trade fair. This can be evidenced from how they treat the photo exhibitions. These are mounted in the eating areas where you have to dodge supine members of the public lying like beached seals against the boards.  I really wish the organizers would provide a gallery area with proper lighting and mounting, but I guess that would reduce the amount of selling space available.

Secondly issue is the NEC itself.

Even after you have paid for the tickets itself, the costs just mount. Despite having car parks the size of Belgium, they still feel the need to charge you £12 for your stay . A collection of adverts masquerading as a show program comes in at £5 and what is euphemistically termed food  is sold at prices that someone attending a West end restaurant would feel aggrieved about.

Then there is the venue itself. For a show that should be about the art of photography, the NEC has the warmth and ambiance of an aircraft hanger.

So lets recap. I had nothing to buy, do not like the show and will be paying hover £30 for the privilege of going.

So why did I go?

Well firstly, it is close. My total journey from work or home is only 40 minutes, which makes it a temptation

Secondly is the herd thing. It is the feeling that if I was not there I could not be serious about my hobby, which is of course total bullshit.

Finally despite its limitation, it is a place where you can play around with a huge mix of products, and hopefully I would get some sort of inspiration or new ideas.

This year I could only make it half a day. This is however not a bad thing. I find any more than 3 hours and both my physical and mental muscles are tired out. After 3 hours I really need to leave since I am at my most susceptible to any sales patter and could easily be persuaded to part  with a large amount of cash for a product I have no use for.

Unfortunately this meant that I had little opportunity to visit any talks or lectures. Considering the number of friends and colleagues who came home with a new printer, the one by Doug Chinnery seems to been the one to go to and I'm sorry I missed it. However I did catch the talk again by sport photographer, Bob Martin, who is always a pleasure and  inspiration to listen too. When I get to go to the Olympics as a sport photographer, I am sure his advice will be invaluable :)

Bob Martin, sports photographer extraordinaire 

I also noticed some changes this year. One welcome change was the move away from scantily clad models (mainly female) on the camera stands. This hopefully is a sign that manufacturers are growing up and being more inclusive. Another obvious change was the number of drones sellers this year showing how big drone photography has be come in recent years.

There is always one...

What was as interesting was the what was missing.

Sigma seemed to be the only major lens manufacturer there. Of the main camera manufacturers, Leica did not show up, maybe feeling that the venue were beneath them.

After there impressive showing last year, Serif were not hear meaning out of the photo software companies, only Adobe had any presence.

In terms of new technology, Fuji was the most interesting. I still think their cameras can take retro a tad too far, but they are a work of art and the lens line up is well thought out and high quality. I was also interested in their new medium format camera, the GFX 50S.  It took fantastic images, but the suggestion that it could replace a dSLR for general work seemed unlikely due to its weight and size. However I would not be surprised to see more professional landscape photographers migrating to it, if for no other reason to differentiate themselves from full frame cameras, which are starting to filter down pro/am photographers now,

Talking of which I had a go on the Sony A99ii, which seemed a very good camera, if not a tad heavy. However its price plus the need for full frame lenses will probably be forever out of my reach.

So did I come away with anything? Well apart from a few magazines,I got a reasonable priced travel tripod for a coming holiday. I was also interested in a few products. I have a yearning for a camera trigger systems, but whenever I look at them they always feel a bit expensive for what is nothing more than a sensor trigger and a adjustable timer. I feel it is something I could knowck up myself if I had the time and inclination. I also liked the macro lights by adaptalux. I have desire to do more macro work and these looked good for lighting your subjects. Again however they seemed quite expensive for what they were, but well engineered and put together.

So after all that, will I go next year? At present, no, but I said that last year and i ended up anyway. Maybe I am approaching the show in the wrong way and I should go with a group. After all if you are going to follow the herd, you might as well be part of it

Sony juggling

Exit please

Sunday, 19 February 2017

The Rules of Composition

Last week we had a interesting talk from Tony Pioli on composition at the photography club.

Now composition is one of those subjects which I know the theory well, but struggle to put it into practice when in the field.

The talk concentrated largely on landscapes, and one interesting point he raised was the tendency for the eye(well the western eye anyway) to favor left to tight images.

This I will demonstrate this with some of my best images...

The rule of thirds is a well known rule(well, guideline) in photography. The concept is that the strongest points on a photograph must lie on the line or a intersection from a grid splitting a picture up in thirds.

 The left to right rule takes this a step further and says in a image with one strong vertical, the vertical should lie on the right third of the image.

In theory the image is now stronger

This is quite a simple concept and best of all can be relatively easy to achieve post processing. If the image is on the left third you simply flip the image in the editor.

The other rule was the L rule.  That is a picture is strong if it forms a L shape, with a strong vertical on the right . Now this seems to break the left right rule, but the caveat to this is that it needs some interest in the other 2/3's such as clouds. If that area is blank it will not work as well.

Clear Sky

with Clouds...

Those were the two rules which stood out of the talk. However there were others such as a image with one eye should be central and in still life images there height progression is low medium, high, medium.

Height progression

As simple rules they work well. Of course all composition rules should be taken with a pinch of salt. They are not really rules, but useful guidelines and often a picture stands out because it breaks the conventions not because they follow it. So the more important life lesson is not so much the rules themselves, but when to break them

Monday, 30 January 2017

A day with Rich and Verity

Verity and Rich point out the views

On the 26th November, I did something different.

I spent a day just photographing.

Now if I had my way it would be my default activity, but little things like earning money, looking after a family and all the other mundanities  of modern living means that even at weekends I am lucky to get with a camera for more than a couple of hours.

So how did I manage it this time?

It had been my plan all year to go somewhere a bit further afield with my camera. However I had been thwarted in that ambition largely by the need to transport my daughter to various open day destinations. .While I  love spending a day with my daughter, part of me did feel I had been slightly cheated out of quality camera time.

However in between the various doom and gloom that will forever categorize 2016, I had a tweet about a coming photography workshop run by Verity Milligan and Rich Jones, both photographers I had been following for a while(Verity in particular specializes in revealing the beauty of Birmingham, my home town).

A quick scan of  the calendar that cannot be disobeyed showed that my life (and more importantly my wife) had no plans for me that day. Even better it was within easy traveling distance(about an hour). So in a uncharacteristic fit of decisiveness I decided to go for it

Now the reason I don't often do these sort of things is that a) I am not always that comfortable in groups of strangers and b) despite my best efforts, I find it brings out a competitive side I am not totally comfortable with.

The latter reason my biggest fault. Rather than revel in opportunity for collaboration, I can feel I will be judged by my results. As soon as I feel my efforts are not meeting those around me, I go into a spiral of self-doubt, recrimination and envy. I know, childish, but I have come to accept that is who I am, and so I have built coping mechanisms one of which is not to put myself in such situations.

Despite all this on the 26th November, I crept out the house and set out on a early foggy November morning to Paddock Gorge in the the Peak District, where I was to meet up with Verity and Rich together with my fellow photographers companions for the day.

Now I like to think that I know the Peak District well, walking extensively both in the dark and white peak areas. However for some reason Paddock Gorge had never come on the radar. Which is a pity because for a landscape photographer it had a bit of everything. Lichen covered forests, stands of Silver Birch, a step of small waterfalls.

To  be fair the fog meant that much of this was not instantly viewable. However the fog added something else, wonderful misty forests with great layering and depth of field of the trees. We had a chance to take some images of the stream that tumbles down the gorge. This was a good chance to get the ND filter out and try some milky water shots. To be honest these could of gone better, but I got a couple of shots of which were not too bad.

After lunch at a rather fine local hostelry,  the decision we made to go to surprise view. This was aptly named because the fog had come right down and it was almost impossible to see anything. However it did allow for some shots of shadows of misty trees. However just as we were thinking of giving up for the day  and the sun started going down, surprise view really lived up to its name as the fog condensed into the valley bottom, given one of the finest cloud inversions I have ever seen.

All in all, we could not of asked for better weather for photographic opportunities.

Which left me in a dilemma. What if my photos turned out to be pants? Now I could not blame the the landscape, or the weather. I even had advice on hand to help me get the best shots. If the shots did not turn out great, I only had myself to blame!

For that reason, I was very reticent in processing the images. In fact I didn't start looking at them in detail until late December. My initial impressions were of disappointment as I realised that photos had not really done justice to the day. This was not helped as images filtered in from the other members of the party on social media, seemingly putting mine to shame. 

Still as I reviewed them more I started elements I liked and eventually I manged to tease out acceptable shots. Of course there were some missed opportunities. For example there was a great ice bow on the day, but i did not think to put on a polarizing filter, so I failed to get any great definition.

However in the end I got some shots I really like, now I have had time to think about them.

So would  I do it again?

Well, if they could guarantee the same weather and views, I would say yes in a shot.  Both Rich and Verity were great company on the day, and I did take away some useful lessons from the day. My only regret was that I did not use there expertise as much as i should.

That was purely my fault.I think the best lesson is that if you pay to go on these sort of courses, leave all your experience behind. You have paid to learn, and the best way to do that is go with a blank slate.

Ended up with a lot of B&W. Silver Birch and fog, it is a winning combination

Got some great detail shots of this wall with moss. Must admit, one of my favorite images

Another B&W Silver Birch shot

The ephemeral qualities of this stand of Birch trees are great

This was a late bloomer, but put in B&W and with the fog background, I love the simplicity of the image

Surprise view living up to its name

Probably the only ND I was happy with. It took a while to get a position. I tried ages to get some leaves to swirl. in the end I gave up and had to be content with two still ones

As the sun burnt through, the colours were great

The cloud inversion

Friday, 13 January 2017

new year resolutions

So a new photographic year begins. What to do...

In truth the weather has been uniformly dreadful recently so it there has been little point going out, however the need to get back on my photographic horse was driven home to me yesterday in the 1st competition of the new year.

This was the panel of 4, which generally I enjoy since it provides some release from the constraints of things like wildlife competitions.

So how did I do.

Easy answer.....mixed.

While my prints were just a smidgen off 3rd place, unfortunately I had to be content with just a highly commended.The judge wanted to give very highly commended. However such a label does not exist and therefore the results will always show I was just an also ran.

The DPI however was even more disappointing. I was one of only 3 images not to be held back. This was a surprise because I thought the images and panel was strong.

In hindsight I still believe this, but I now feel I fell into the trap of not being ambitious enough. The winning entry was very different and in the past it is the kind of image I would of aspired to do. This time I just put 4 images together.

The failed entry....

That is the crux of my new year resolution. Recently I have become too orthodox. I have substituted quantity, rather than planning what my photos should show . I need to pare back and start adding some new long term goals.

I always said I would rather be considered different than good, but orthodox so it is time to rediscover that mantra.

In other news I have found that 2 photos got accepted for NEMPF, so this is a really good result and a step up in class. However it looks like I will have to now go by the name Derek, since that was how one of the images were labeled.

Maybe I should use that name from know on, since it is apparent Derek knows  more about photography than I do :)

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Creating a panel of 4

This time of year we have the panel of 4 competition. This means putting 4 images together into one image.

Because I only do this once a year I have to relearn over again how I do it again from scratch.

So this is my attempt to reduce that process and show my technique for creating such panels.

 I use in Photoshop CS2 to do this. Other editing tools maybe equally as good, but photoshop gives me some extra precision.  While this description is specific to CS2 I am sure the same process will work in later Photoshop versions or elements. I have not investigated other packages such as Serif Affinity

The Process

First we have to decide our layout. I  normally do this with a sketch on paper. This method works best when there are 4 equally sized images. If you want images of different sizes, it is more complex, but some of these techniques will also help in that scenario also.

This is the layout I am trying for. Basically 4 aligned images with a equal margin around them.

The critical measurements are the maximum size of the canvas which the images will be displayed, the width of our margin or frame. These in turn define the size of our panel images.

1st step is to calculate how big each image is going to be.

In my case I want each image to fit in a maximum canvas size of 1400px x 1050px, This in turn gives us our maximum size. I also want some sort of frame around each individual panel so this needs to be taken into account.

I want to have a margin of 4 pixels around image. In choosing a frame size it is easier to choose an even number of pixels, since it means you will not end up with half pixels in your image sizes.

The process is therefore

1. Decide the maximum size of your canvas
2. Decide the size of your margins
3. Workout the maximum size of your panels
4. Create your panel based on 1,2 and 3.

Working out the size of your image

(Warning this may contain maths)

Each image size will be calculated based on the following

(length of canvas side   - (3 x margin size))/2

As an example say we have a standard APS-C image size of 6000x4000 that we want to fit into our canvas with a margin size of 4 pixels

On the longest side, our new size would be (1400-(3x4))/2 which equals 694 pixels.

Because we want to maintain the image ratio, that would mean our new height would be (694/6000)*4000 which is ~463 pixels.

That would mean the minimum height of our canvas would  (3*4)+(463*2) or 938 pixels. Since this is within our required canvas size we will be OK. If this is not the case, you may want to use the height of the canvas as your initial canvas measurement

Therefore we need the following:-

  •  A new image of size 1400 pixels x 938 pixels with a background of the colour you want your margin to be
  • 4 images, each of size 694pixels  by 463 pixels

Creating the panel.

We create a new image of the required size. In our example we will create a canvas of 1400 x 938 pixels
We then need to place each image in the right place.

We take our 1st image and using the resize option in photoshop, resize it to 694 pixels x 436 pixels. We select and copy the image and then paste it into the new canvas. It should appear as a new layer.

The next step is to place the image accurately. This can be done by hand,  but it is more accurate to use the edit -> free transform tool

Select the layer you want to position and select the free transform option.

In the menu bar at the top, you will see a set of 9 dots in a shape of a square and next to that a set of dialog boxes. These define the image coordinates and what the values measurements are relative to.

We want the measurements to be relative to the background image top left hand corner. To do this click the square of dots in the top left hand corner.

In the position X dialog entry, enter the size of your margin (e.g 4 px). Similarly do the same in the Y box.  The layer should now be moved to the top left, with a margin of 4 pixels from the background canvas.

Click the tick box in the top menu bar to accept the transform.The 1st image should now be in the correct position in the top left with a 4 pixel margin between it and the edge of the canvas.

Now resize and paste the 2nd image, which is to be placed in the top right.

Again do a free transform, however this time the X coordinates will be (Frame size+Image Width+Frame size).

The process is the same for the images in the bottom left and bottom right, although the coordinates will be different. Here is a list of the coordinates :-

                           X                                                    Y
Top Left            Frame Width                                   Frame Width
Top Right          (Frame Width*2)+Image Width     Frame width
Bottom Left      Frame Width                                   (Frame Width*2)+Image Height
Bottom Right    (Frame Width*2)+Image Height     (Frame Width*2)+Image Height

So in our case the coordinates will be

Image 1 (4,4)
Image 2 (702,4)
Image 3 (4,471)
Image 4 (702,471)

Once you have done all 4 images, the image should be aligned with  a frame around it.

To finish you can expand the canvas to its maximum size by using the canvas resize tool to set it to the final size (1400 x 1050 pixels) with a black background set.

If you have images of different sizes more work is required, but the free transform tool is still the most accurate method of aligning images.