Wednesday, April 23, 2014

PhotoProject :: Blurring the Edges

Unfortunately I opened a can of worms in the comments thread on this weeks thepatch theme, when I discussed the compositional desire not to have strong lines running out to the edges of an image. Many artist forced to learn about classic approaches to composition would try to stop such lines leading the viewers eye to the edge (and potentially onto something else). They might stop it short of the edge have another intersecting line/curve to carry the eye back into the picture. They might soften the line. or just imply it is still there. The may diffuse of darken the edges. The””Circle of Light” was a classic Walt Disney device in his animations where many scenes just has a simple wash around the edges, like a vignette, cutting contrast and diffusing the background but leaving stronger light and detail around the subjects. Understanding how lines help and inhibit the viewer’s eye flow is a really big topic and I will only cover a tiny part of the issues here. For landscape work here is a goof place to start if you want to find out more.

But rules are meant to be broken right. Below are a couple examples that break this “rule” and do it with style.

Turners Rain.Steam & Speed was a somewhat of an avant-guard over the top image at the time. Its use of colour and strong atmospheric effects that predate the French impressionist but in some ways his attempts to represent pure light leads the way for them to follow. In any event turner has an intuitive sense of good composition, for example the train engine is located at the golden mean point (both horizontally vertically the ratio of distance along that axis is 1: 1.6 that divine proportion. I don’t think he used callipers, I think he just knew where to position it. It is worth clicking on this thumbnail to see the enlarged image. Can you see the hare trying to get away from the train?

Ken Duncan's peaceful waters image breaks a few rules, eg strong lines and symmetrical placement but it is also truly wonderful. The eye is very definitely drawn in by the converging lines and the bollards on the end of the wharf and rocky outcrop with a silhouetted tree give plenty for an exploring eye to investigate but it is the colours that gives the real wow factor. It has become the “inspiration” for many many similar images. It is worth clicking on the image and find out just how it came about.

But Lines have to Hit the Edge?

Ok having seen the rules being broken how might they be acknowledge and followed in photography because there are pretty much always lines that will extend out of the photo (like the horizon cutting across any landscape photo for example). The Photographer at the time of taking the picture does have a some control of how strong lines appear in the photo, for example he/she can change their point of view or tilt the camera. For example lines that converged into the image (as in both these examples above) tend to draw the eye in. If the lines converge towards the edge your eye could be draw out of the picture. Particularly if they exit close to the corners. Thus best avoided. Also your eye or more particularly your brain is drawn to strong contrast, because it assumes that will be an edge. So the point on a line with the strongest contrast will be what draws the viewers eye. This is where the idea of ”lost and found” lines comes in very handy. Your brain actually likes to entertain itself with little puzzles and one it loves is to project where objects and edges are. So it can figure out where a line might run and if it gets some confirmation of where this is, it may not bother looking further, This is a perfect way to slow the viewer’s eye down and back into the centers of interest in your image.

Blurring the Lines!

So the theory here is to reduce the contrast and blur strong lines before they hit the edge. Its just like a vignette only instead of changing the tone the image is blurred and/or dulled. Its really a simple idea and I think can work well on the appropriate occasions..
blurring the lines at the edge in google+

Selling those pixels

I have always been on the look out for simpler ways to sell my work.Using the net to do it is appealing but and its a really big BUT …its a lot of work, unless you sign that over to a middleman who takes takes all the profit. (for example selling a photo ebook on the apple store that cost more than $10, sees apple taking a commission of 70%+, I have “sold” a few large prints of redbubble but haven’t yet reached the point where I have earned enough to get a cheque mailed to me, the actual amount you get from many stock photograph services is tiny and shrinking! The 25-30% commissions most galleries charge is starting to look ok. It is possible that, which is an offshoot of Fine Art America, is positioning itself in this “we do everything for you” market but they do seem to be making a few sensible noises to appeal to “real”* artists and photographers. If nothing else I like their video on YouTube (above).
I’m not really sure it will succeed, specifically can they attract the serious art buyers, but I’m willing to give it a try. Watch this blog space for details of my work on
* by “real” I just mean those creatives that need to make money from their work to live and keep creating, rather than hobbyists or those with the luxury of another income stream.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

PC melt down, was Google+ AutoBackup the Culprit?

Whilst travelling in New Zealand I was able to connect to free but relatively low bandwidth access to the net, eg most libraries offer free WiFi and many cafes have 30minutes free WiFi  etc. With this sort of free access it seem unnecessary to pay the exorbitant data roaming charges of telstra. The downside was the bandwidth is very limited but still. First I noticed it was almost impossible to shut my computer down. Then one night I was on line and loading a number of photos from several cards and the card seemed to hang. Everything on the computer just got slower and slower even when not connected to the net and I had to kill the system and restart it in safe mode. My first step was to get everything backedup to a backpack USB drive I always carry but being so busy I hadn’t done in a few days. imageGiven all the publicity about the heartbleed vulnerability, virus and malware check was by first though but things checked out fine. I even did the full check disk thing, still ok. Then when I reconnected to the net I saw google+ autobackup was waiting to rebackup every photo on my laptop and suggesting it would take 73days! I did check the photo size it was trying to upload and it was still set to standard. If you select the standard size google+ autobackup only stores images at 2,048pixels in maximum dimension, which is fine for web display and small prints, and this size and smaller the storage is free (ie unlimited). I paused Autobackup immediately. However I ended up uninstalling it, rather than restarting it. Mainly because there is no obvious help files that I could find. Magically the slowness of my system and glitches loading photos disappeared. Sadly the specific card reader I was using at the time of the melt down has completely die.

Was Google+ AutoBackup the culprit?

Did I miss it, the highlights and autoawesomes. Not at all I was still able to share, with my family (not the world) via a new album I set up in Picasa.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Bidding NZ goodbye

After a wonderful 12 days, mainly up and around the Bay of Islands we have to fly home today.

Did I really take almost 3,000 photos. yeap looks like I did.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Patch :: Boats and More Boats

repeated boats autostiched panoramaOne thing there are plenty of in the bay of island are boats, starting from huge cruise ships down to tiny “tinnies”. Every little Bay and sheltered inlet is crammed with expensive pleasure craft but I got interested in other boats the smaller row boats that are parked every to get out to the expensive toys.Some are stacked neatly in racks, other a bit all over the place, but they could make for interesting composition. On the day I visited the Waitangi Treaty Ground there was a large cruise ship anchored off shore and the sun lit it as I was looking at the massive war canoe. The red cross spare making an interesting pattern BUt the canoe is so large I had to hold the camera up well above my head and hope I was pointing in the right direction just to get an image (and it never really came off. Such is life.

Typicsl Bay of islands "car park" iwi Ngāpuhi’s ceremonial war canoe Ngātokimatawhaorua

The weather has turned foul and the bike hire place at the end of Paihia beach, which is normally bustlingly with back packers was quiet and their kayaks for hire where all lined up in the beach. Just a small break between showers to get a quick snap. I was also quiet amazed to see the line of swimmer emerging from the water (look on the left had side). Al last a nice composition.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Whangarao Harbour

Following in Charles Darwin’s Footsteps

The fact that Charles Darwin visited the bay of Island in late 1835 is almost a bit of a secret here. These are some photos of my own along with extracts from “The Voyage of the Beagle”. Like my Retracing Darwin journey following his visit to Bathurst in 1836, I have enjoyed following in Darwin’s footsteps. Sometimes things have change little, in other places the difference is immense. For instance Darwin describes the area of Kororareka (which means Sweet Penguin) as “full of the refuse of society”, now known as Russell it is a sleepy romantic little charming town, not the scourge of the pacific as it was once notoriously described, and a magnet for rough elements such as fleeing convicts, whalers and drunken sailors.

View of Russell from Flagstaff Hill
“December 22nd.In the morning I went out walking; but I soon found that the country was very impracticable. All the hills are thickly covered with tall fern, together with a low bush which grows like a cypress; and very little ground has been cleared or cultivated. I then tried the sea-beach; but proceeding towards either hand, my walk was soon stopped by salt-water creeks and deep brooks.”
Salt water creek neafr Paihia
“December 23rd. Mr. Bushby, the British resident, offered to take me in his boat by a creek, where I should see a pretty waterfall, and by which means my walk would be shortened “ [to Waimate].
Waterfall at Kerikeri
“Some time ago Mr. Bushby suffered a far more serious attack. A chief and a party of men tried to break into his house in the middle of the night, and not finding this so easy, commenced a brisk firing with their muskets. Mr. Bushby was slightly wounded, but the party was at length driven away.”
busby house pano (2)
“At length we reached Waimate. After having passed over so many miles of an uninhabited useless country, the sudden appearance of an English farm-house, and its well-dressed fields, placed there as if by an enchanter's wand, was exceedingly pleasant. Mr. Williams not being at home, I received in Mr. Davies's house a cordial welcome. After drinking tea with his family party, we took a stroll about the farm.”
Mission house at Waimate North
Puketi Kauri forest“December 24th.A little before noon Messrs. Williams and Davies walked with me to part of a neighbouring forest, to show me the famous kauri pine. I measured one of these noble trees, and found it thirty-one feet in circumference above the roots. There was another close by, which I did not see, thirty-three feet; and I heard of one no less than forty feet. These trees are remarkable for their smooth cylindrical boles, which run up to a height of sixty, and even ninety feet, with a nearly equal diameter, and without a single branch. The crown of branches at the summit is out of all proportion small to the trunk; and the leaves are likewise small compared with the branches. The forest was here almost composed of the kauri; and the largest trees, from the parallelism of their sides, stood up like gigantic columns of wood.”
“December 26th.Mr. Bushby offered to take Mr. Sulivan and myself in his boat some miles up the river to Cawa-Cawa [now spelt Kawakawa], and proposed afterwards to walk on to the village of Waiomio, where there are some curious rocks. …Here there are some singular masses of limestone resembling ruined castles. These rocks have long served for burial places, and in consequence are held too sacred to be approached. One of the young men, however, cried out, "Let us all be brave," and ran on ahead; but when within a hundred yards, the whole party thought better of it, and stopped short.”
Limestone formation at Waiomio
“December 30th.In the afternoon we stood out of the Bay of Islands, on our course to Sydney. I believe we were all glad to leave New Zealand. It is not a pleasant place.”
Cruiseship off Waitangi

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lunar Eclipse

There was a full lunar eclipse tonight here in New Zealand just after sunset, but unfortunately it was a heavy cloud cover and raining. So I only got a few glimpses of the eclipse and had to really push the ISO to get any decent exposure. However I was happy that I did capture realistic colour, for the so call "blood moon".

New Zealand Motif

IMGP9359 IMGP9380 IMGP9401

On Making a Vertical Panorama

IMGP9123Trying to capture the full height of the mighty kauri tree is difficult, it towers above you but it is difficult to step back and get a full view, as the forest closes around you (like any rainforest). So you have the option of looking straight up (as above), and suffer the difficulty of achieving the depth of field range required, or taking a series of photo progressively looking up (as below left).image The trouble with this approach is one of perspective. I usually use autostitch, rather than a plug-in or microsoft’s ICE, and that has a neat little auto straighten tick box on the orientation settings panel, which helps sort of the perspective issue are you rotate your camera upwards it stretches out the upper images and trying ti keep any strong vertical lines (like the tree trucks) vertical Giving the.stitched image a vase like appearance. If the black borders worry you, you can crop down the the image to remove them.  If your stitching software doesn’t have this feature you can always rotate the photos 90 degress and treat them like a normal pamorana (but expect the tree trucks to curve in on you).

kauri-001 kauri forest pano

The Kauri tree on the right is over 1,000 years old by the way.