Saturday, January 31, 2009

Broad Pass, Alaska, in winter

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Two major highways run between Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska. It takes about seven hours to drive the shorter of the two (the Parks Highway), which is 323 miles/520 km, long ... or, that's the theory. The fact is, you can take twelve hours to drive it -- if you stop every ten minutes up the road for a photo-op. And believe me, the ops are almost everywhere you look. It's one of the most scenic highways in the world, especially in winter. This section above is Broad Pass, photographed in the late winter of 1999. I stood in the middle of the road and turned a complete three-sixty, creating a long, long panorama. The straight horizontal line you see in the lower section of the shot is the railroad. And yes, it was cold. Very cold. It was also extremely bright, with the sun reflecting off the snow. The camera was the Pentax K-1000; the filmstock was Kodak Royal Gold 200. The old print is now fading, and after it was scanned at 600dpi it was intensively ehnanced to return the digital photo to the original colors and brightness. Photo by Mel, 1999.

Grace, in Greened Bronze

A million photographers must have recorded this statue since it was unveiled in 1973. It's a fountain on the banks of the Thames, maybe fifty metres east of the north end of Tower Bridge. It's at least double-lifesize, maybe more, a near-realistic portrayal of a sea nymph in weightless play with a dolphin, a beautiful piece reflecting England's historic affinity with the sea. The lighting conditions were very difficult, as the early December sun was sinking fast behind the high-rises of London on that Sunday afternoon in 2007. I could play the sun for all it was worth and go for lens-flare, or de-emphasise the sun and try for some sort of dramatic backlighting. I shot many frames all around this fountain but somehow the severe silhouetting of both the statue and Tower Bridge itself has always struck me as the most dramatic. I hesitate to gamma-correct the image or enhance it any further: this is one of those cases when it really did look just like that on the day! Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Photo by Mike, 2o07.

Sunrise In Australia

red sunrise

This was taken just from the backyard. The cloud level was at the perfect height to get the "burning sky" effect. No enhancements were done to this shot, it really looked like this. The ole Fuji S6500fd did a great job capturing the colours. Photo by dave.

A face from prehistory

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Here's a face from the distant past. Tortoises and turtles have survived unchanged since prehistoric times. You could have been looking into this same face fifty million years ago. This one is a Murray River turtle, and is lucky to be living in the Worrawong Earth Sanctuary, because the river which is the natural environment for these creatures is suffering badly in the drought. Not only is the Murray drying up completely in places, but the remaining pools are now so saline, so heavy in chemical salts as the water evaporates away, nothing can live in them. Photo by Jade, 2006.

The tall ship with the terrific menu

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You're driving down the beautiful road leading along the bank of the Patawalonga River, which flows out into the Gulf St. Vincent via the marina and "millionaire country" just to the north of Jetty Road, Glenelg ... and suddenly you see a tallship. A three-master, a square-rigger, parked on "the Pat" at Glenelg --? You pull over quickly and grab the camera, and you experience an "aha" moment. It's a replica of the HMS Buffalo, the ship which brought the colonists to South Australia in 1836. Treat yourself to lunch or dinner -- aboard, she's fantastic. As absolutely perfect replica of the original ship ... which is also a restaurant serving very good food at surprisingly good prices. The restuarant caters to the whole family, too, and (trust me on this!) their forte is the desserts. This is a scan of a shot I took back in the 1980s; I don't even recall when. I haven't been back to Glenelg is years now, since moving away. I always liked this picture, and since the print has started to fade with age, it was recently scanned in and enhanced. The camera was the Olympus OM-10, and I always shot on Kodak Gold in those days. Photo by Jade, about 1984.

An aviation icon of the north

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A lot of pilots will tell you that the DeHavilland DHC-2 Beaver is the easiest plane in the air to fly, and watching this one skip in and out of Lake Hood -- which is the world's busiest float plane harbor, in Anchorage, Alaska -- I can believe it. The Beaver has an amazing history and is an icon in Arctic Canada. The skies in the north are still full of them. This one is operated by Rust Flying Services, and is still in the air, still working -- you can see it on Rust's website's homepage! This photo was captured in 1997, on a glorious day in August. The weather was warm, which is very unusual for August in Alaska (folks said I'd brought the good weather with me; and wouldn't you know it? It quit just as I left). I was shooting on 200 speed film, which was all I had left when I got this picture. Because the film was not so fast, you'll notice the background blurred as I tracked with the aircraft ... which adds to the effect. The film was not developed till I got back to Australia, and I discovered the undeveloped roll had been damaged by going through about nine airport x-ray machines. All the images have an overall yellow cast. To get around this, the old print was scanned at 600dpi and deeply enhanced for sharpness, contrast, brightness -- and color. Then it was touched up to get rid of about forty "ufos" -- faults in the photo paper on which it had been printed, so long ago. The result is very nice -- and for me, full of memories. The integrity of the shot tells me the camera was one of my Pentax K-1000s, and the film was certainly Kodak Royal Gold 200. Photo by Mel, 1997.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Koalas really are too cute!


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Sometimes you can hike the woods and see one or two koalas from afar, and they'll be asleep! They look like furry little bumps in the trees way over your head. And then another day you;ll hike the same forest and there'll be half a dozen wide awake, sitting in the low branches of trees right beside the trail. These guys are cute ... but before you decide he'll make a great pet and ought to come home with you -- check out those claws! They're even cuter right where they are, in the wild! This is a telephoto shot on 6MP, and all I did was trim some of the background and resize it for the upload. As far as I recall, the Fuji 6500 was on full automatics, and it did a great job. Photo by Mel, 2008

Lone Sapling

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There is something amazing about the tenacity of life, and this fir sappling, fighting to grow in the coarse upland soil of a place called, prosaically, "Rocky Paddock," a popular hillside camping area with amazing natural rock formations off the side of Mount Crawford, north-east of Adelaide, seems to epitomise it. The texture of the shot's light and shade, the carpet of pine needles and the organic hues, create an appealing mosaic that underlines the environment in which life can flourish: harsh and exposed, but then, that's a pine tree's place in the world. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Afternoon sun, May, 2008. Photo by Mike.

Angry Eye of the Storm

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The weather can play strange tricks at any time, but when you have the right location the phenomena in the sky can be downright creepy. This was early December 2006 and I was in Wiltshire, coach-tripping around Bronze Age antiquities and other sites of historic interest. This was at the medieval village of Upavon, our stop between Avebury and Stonehenge. The weather had been lousy all day, rain in varying amounts, muddy ground, but that had not detered half the bus load from getting off to exercise their cameras on the ancient monuments of the southcountry. This was a serendipitous shot as I was stretching my legs in the mainstreet: I looked up and found the sun straining through a black cloud, silhouetting a gaunt tree, like something from high fantasy art. Zoom, frame, snap, all in a couple of seconds, before the cloud swept by and the image was lost. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Photo by Mike.

Natural Backlight

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Sometimes a great shot just walks into your lens: this was a shot begging to be taken. A cool, sunny Sunday afternoon in Greenwich Park, east London, with the low sun of early December (2007) backlighting the trees in their rich colours. The mounted Police were on patrol and I waited for pedestrians to clear the frame, lined up a patch of sunshine, cranked in plenty of optical zoon and let the horses walk into my viewfinder. The shadows flow directly toward the viewer while the sun makes the yellow leaves shine as if luminous. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Photo by Mike.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Glorious fall colors at Loftia Gardens

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With the summer sizzling ... with the region setting record temperatures ... a lot of people hereabouts are beginning to long for the end of summer. For autumn -- fall, if you prefer. It'll still be hot in the Australian autumn, but you'll eventually start to get cool evenings, morning mists and that holy of holies: rain! The native trees (gums and eucalypts) don't change color, but Europeans brought wonderful deciduous trees with them, and in decades long before our own these trees throve. These days they don't -- there's not enough rain as the drought deepens and only seems to get worse. But many years ago the climate made deciduous trees welcome, and South Australia is rich with them. This picture was taken at the Loftia Botanic Gardens a few years ago. The only thing I'd do differently, today, is -- I'd use 6MP instead of 3MP. When I got this image, my cards were 80% full and I was shoehorning for space. Wouldn't you know it? A lot of the best images were done in the last 20% of the shoot ... at 3MP. To compensate for this, in the computer I reduced the gamma properties, sharpened the image, and resaturated the color a little. Photo by Jade, 2006.


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We humans love our signage, but there are times when the sheer number of signs around the road is so high, my question is -- how are you supposed to read this much as you drive my at 35mph, and if you can only read a fraction of what's there, how do you decide in a split second what's important, much less critical?! A hot, bright day in the southern suburbs of Adelaide; in fact, you're looking down the aptly named Beach Road at Noarlunga! The shot was captured through the windscreen, and the only work done on it in the computer is cropping. With light this bright, the colors saturate themselves in-camera. Photo by Mel, 2007.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The gate guard

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About halfway up Shepherd's Hill Road, this lion is guarding a gate. He's only around a foot high, and he's been there a long time. I love heraldry, and this guy really appeals. Normally you're driving past too fast to notice him, but this particular day we parked opposite for some reason ... something to do with a truck, I believe! ... and I grabbed my chance, without having the opportunity to get out of the car. This is an extreme telephoto shot, and enhanced a little to give it contrast because the raw image is a little faded by the sheer distance involved. 10:1 optical zoom on the Fuji 6500. Photo by Jade, 2007.

Heavenly shades of evening

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You know the old song lyric, "Heavenly shades of night are falling, it's twilight time..." This picture embodies those words. It was a glorious evening, cool and calm, ahead of a change in the weather. It's that change you're looking at coming up here, with the clouds at just the right altitude to catch the light from a sun that was already down. The picture has been cropped to cut out a/c units and chimneys, and a phone wire; but the colors have only been "tweaked" a little, to make the digital photo reflect the actual evening. The toughest thing about getting these shots with a digital camera is convincing the onboard computer not to adjust the exposure. Good cameras have a "normal" setting which offers WYSIWYG -- "what you see is what you get." Photo by Mel, 2006.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Stop and smell the flowers

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October downunder: springtime, warm and bright, but not yet so hot that the landscape is parched and burned out. Everything is green as Ireland, and this is the time when wildflowers carpet the woods with delicate blooms like this one, above. Scores of different kinds of flowers seduce photographers into the forest, but like wild blooms anywhere, they can be extremely small. You'll be on the macro setting, and if you want really great results, get a firm handle on your manual focus. The tricks? Patience; good eyes, to pick the right flower; steady hands to hold focus in the macro range. Digital cameras are a godsend; you can botch forty shots, erase them fast before anyone else sees them, and come back with perfect photos -- all at no cost! Photo by Jade, 2007.

...and have you seen their buses?!

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Today we're flying the South Australian flag -- literally! The promotion is called "SA Great," and you'll see it everywhere, like this. Plastered down the side of a bus. This was a real "reflex" shot, because I was shooting between traffic. Trucks, other buses, taxi cabs, every kind of vehicle you can imagine, which would take turns to obscure your view, while the bus revved up to leave. The day was sizzling hot -- as witness the brilliance of the light which brought the colors up this way in the image. No digital enhancement has been done. All I did with this shot was crop the bottom to get rid of a trash bin! It looked like this at the time. Photo by Mel, 2007.

Cold Sun on Old Stone

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This picture looks warm and serene, a summer evening in any European-derived society anywhere in the world, but, as always, looks are deceiving. This picture was taken in the early evening of Guy Fawkes' Night (November 5th) 2007, a few hours before the fireworks displays would be in full swing, and such a date, in England is cold by any standards. This is the church of St. Hilda on the West Cliff of Whitby, North Yorkshire. It stands among the tall 18th-century terrace houses which are of course now all hotels, something of a medieval anachronism cheek-by-jowl with buildings which remain contemporary in flavour. The frame was not as easy to capture as it may seem: a roaring wind was blasting down the North Sea, I could hardly stand straight in it (further south, Great Yarmouth was evacuating within days in fear of sea flooding). Exposure was short but framing was almost hit and miss in the buffetting of the gale. Colours were slightly enriched digitally, but the low evening light of early winter brought out the tones of the native stone beautifully. Fuji FinePix S5600, on automatic.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Don't Judge a Photo by its Luminosity

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A broiling hot day in the tropics draws to a close, the sun sinking into a molten ocean and soft, perfumed night brings relief to bronzed locals... Not quite. Luminosity and heat are not quite the same thing in practical terms. This was the Adelaide foreshore in spring '07, a breezy, cool evening in which the sun's direct warmth was quite tolerable and soon missed when the day came to its end. I left exposure up to the automatics, while anticipating a very fast shutter speed, and used a little optical zoom to emphasise the sun itself. FinePix S5600, auto. Photo by Mike, 2007.


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Macro photography offers a whole new world. This image is right on the edge of what I'd be calling macro, and one of the things I like about it is the polarized sunflare off the bottom of the shell. That's not a digital effect -- it's actually there in the raw picture. The real trick to this kind of work is keeping your eyes open. There are thousands of shots at your fingertips, if you only saw them. I tend to miss most! The other tricks are purely mechanical. Know how to handle your camera on macro and super-macro ... and know how to handle your software, to enhance the image once you've cropped out exactly what you want. This picture was captured "on the fly" in 2006, with warm sea water lapping around my bare feet. Just be sure you don't drop the camera! Digital cameras are not as easy to repair as the old optical cameras. Photo by Mel, 2006.

Under pavilions of trees

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I'm back at Hahndorf with this image ... and it's summer. You can tell at a glance because the trees are so lush. These are massive old deciduous trees; they turn red and gold in fall, and in winter they're skeletal, even though there's no such thing as snow in Australia ... well, not in this part of Aus, at least! Not even in the dead of winter. The trees make an incredible arch across the road. It's as if you're driving through a pavilion -- not just for a few meters, but for a long distance. This welcomes you as you enter the best-known small German town in the antipodes! The image was captured through the windscreen; the shutter speed was fast (to stop the action -- the car is moving!) and then the panorama was cropped out of it and digitally enhanced. See Gone Bush for tips and tricks on how to get great "through the windscreen" shots. Photo by Jade, 2006.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Olde Magycke Shoppe

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Soft light can do wonders with texture. While a sunny day will throw texture into relief that can stun the eye, an overcast day can blend tones and soften edges until a living place takes on the subtle feeling of a painting. This was a very overcast day, in fact it was raining for most of it, but my exposures were long enough that for the most part the rain did not register. Looking almost like the work of the 'Painter of Light,' and stocking everything from magic books to crop-circle goodies, this is the 'Henge Shop' in the village of Avebury, Wiltshire, England, one of the buildings which stand actually within the arc of the 6000-year old stone circle that dominates the area. It was photographed on a drizzly morning in early December 2006 during a coach trip around the Neolithic and Bronze Age attractions of the south country. The camera did the focus and exposure, I handled the framing and composition. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Photo by Mike, 2006.

Aspiring to Understanding

The symbolism in this image is so strong -- the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, featuring the solar telescope through which passes the Prime Meridian (zero degrees) of the world's modern navigational reference system, against a clear winter sky in mid-November 2007, laced with the contrails of international flights passing over London. The observatory is a standing museum to the sciences of astronomy, navigation and timekeeping, so vital to the exploration of the world in the days when sail ruled the seas. Two centuries later new forms of transport have taken over, created by engineers who stood on the shoulders of the giants of the past. The photograph was a simple one, a mere snapshot, but the material so offered itself to the lens! Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Photo by Mike, 2007.

The Old Man of The Forest

old blind roo 01

The park rangers tell us that this bloke is "As old as the hills." He's been around longer than any of the current rangers and he is completely blind. He knows all the trails and all the places to find good eats. Notice he has an apple in his front paws. He also doesn't mind people getting close. Belair National Park, South Australia. Picture taken from about 10 feet away with the Fuji S6500fd on full automatics. The picture was resized for the upload, but otherwise this is the raw shot. Photo by dave, 2009.

Fractal reality

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I find this a fascinating image ... it's the way reality seems to break up into lines, angles, corners, and then diminish and vanish to a perspective pojnt. You're looking up at these steps, obviously, but I almost lose the sense of up-down, and see a "through" angle -- the "z" coordinate in 3D maps. Imagine that you're not looking up, but level, and this stepway vanishes into the distance ... are we dizzy yet?! The location is the Hallet Cove Boarwalk, South Australia, on a lovely day in the summer of 2006. The photo was easy to get, but it was washed out by bright sun and deep shadows. A long of enhancement was done, to give it texture and rich, saturated color. Photo by Jade, 2oo6.

Hear those paddles clanking

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This photo is almost two years old and the the fact is, the Murray River doesn't look so healthy now. When this photo was captured, there was already a drought in progress but it hadn't started to bite the way it's biting in the summer of 08/09. These paddlewheel riverboats are strictly a tourist attraction now, but a century ago, and more, massive riverboats -- same kind of thing you see on the Mississippi! -- plied the Murray River, carrying cargo as well as passengers. A couple are still in operation as luxury cruising hotels. Got to go there and do that some day soon. This boat is paddling into Murray Bridge, and doesn't have far to go. The town is just out of shot! Conditions were very bright, and this image has been substantially enhanced at the software stage, to add substance and color. Photo by Mel, 2006.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Rooms with a view

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I love this kind of photo. I call them "texture shots," because you feel like you can reach out and touch ... they're practically "tactile," and to me they convey more of the feeling of actually being there than the wide landscapes. I take both, of course, and reinforce the landscapes with the texture shots. It's a result I find very evocative. The conditions were incredibly bright at Hahndorf, South Australia, when I got this picture. It's the top half of a shot taken from the car window as we drove past a roadside cafe. Under the vines at the bottom of the picture, there are actually tables in the deep shade and people enjoying brunch! I used a very fast shutter speed to get this, but the light was so bright, the picture has plenty of "substance" left. The camera was the Fuji Finefix S5600fd, and IrfanView was used to crop, adjust the gamma and ultra-saturate the color, for best effects. Photo by Jade, 2006.

Steep stair, winding stair

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How thoughtful and kind of Sauron to have the Mordor Orks pop out and put a handrail on the steep, winding stair up the Shelob's pigstie of a hangout. One wouldn't have thought they'd be so considerate! Seriously ... this is a tortuous path up a cliff face at Second Valley, South Australia; and if the rusting rail were not there, there'd be no shortage of casualties! The day was not particularly hot, but the light was so bright, it shriveled your irises. The camera struggled to cope, and the shot was enhanced later at the software level to get the most out of it. Photo by Mel, 2006.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Fountains of Light

This shot was an exercise in patience. The harsh lighting conditions are the result of afternoon sun (the clock in the background says 1.45) shining directly through a very powerful water jet with the shadow side of buildings creating the dark background. The fountain is one of several in Trafalgar Square, London, photographed in early December 2006 (the sun is very low in the English sky in December). You can see there's some elevation in the POV, the picture was taken with telephoto from across the square on the steps of the National Gallery. Patience involved framing the sprays and then waiting for the endless coming and going of tourists to create as un-cluttered an image as possible. Note also the sunglare creating halos of the fine droplets of spray drifting into the lens. Fuji FinePix S5600, 200ASA, full auto.

A snapshot of prehistory

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This was an exercise in steady hands -- the light conditions were very low -- and, later, in digital enhancement. The trilobite lives at the Adelaide Natural History Museum, and as with all museums, the light is dim. Photography is allowed, so long as flash is not used and the images are not intended for commercial use -- as in, publication (meaning, books, magazines. I can't imagine why a museum would have a problem with a picture being blogged). The film speed on the Fuji 6500 was set at about 800, and still the shutter speed was looooong. The fossil is also quite small; you're on the borderline of macro photography here. The trick was to hold the camera extremely steady. Later, I adjusted the image for contrast and color saturation, and the result is striking. The fossil is going to be something like 300 million years old -- all the trilobites perished in the great extinction 250 million years ago. This one is beautifully preserved. Photo by Jade, 2008.

Colors blaze on Stampede Trail

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Fall in the Alaskan interior is an amazing time for a photographer. One normally thinks of "fall colors" as meaning trees, but in fact it's more than that. Stampede Trail is not far from Fairbanks, and it's a fairly well-kept secret ... meaning, the tourists don't know about it, the tour buses don't go there -- the road is a mass of holes that look like shell craters, and if your car doesn't make it out, well ... you have a long, long walk to the nearest phone! This photo was captured in September of 1999. The camera was a Pentax K-1000, and the film stock was ASA200 Kodak Gold. The old print was recently scanned at 600dpi and given some serious digital enhancement to overcome a decade's worth of fading. The light in Alaska is deceptive: even on a bright summer's day you'll be surprised by your meter readings ... it's not as bright as you think. The human eye is deceiving, and the fact is, this close to the arctic circle, the sun is never high enough to create the kind of brightness we know downunder. Photo by Mel, 1999.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Harsh landscape

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Here is a landscape of incredible harshness ... desolation. You wondering briefly if the water in the top left hand corner is a mirage? Is it a salt pan? But no, it's the ocean, a little bay in the south, called Myponga Beach. Not many people know it's there, because the only road to get in and out is so bad, it's a car-killer. It's almost "4x4 or nothing" territory. The community at the end of this road-from-hell is small, private, quiet, peaceful, lovely -- and secret! I'd love to go back there (there are holiday homes...) but I don't think my car would survive the drive again! Photo by Jade, 2007.

Storm light

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Once in a white "it all comes together" and an amazing photo just ... happens. Driving south down the esplanade in the evening, when a storm was coming in out of the west, I saw this -- and was lucky enough to have a camera on me! Pull over, quick: take the picture. Not much science in this one. It's all about serendipity, being in the right place at the right time. Evening ... approaching storm ... beautiful. The location is Seacliff, on the way to Marino, on the Adelaide coast. Photo by Mel, 2006.

Escher by the Sea

It's in those little out-of-the-way places that you find amazing things, and where angles and junctures are concerned the steep, ancient streets of sea villages never fail to amaze. This is Robin Hood's Bay, on the North Yorkshire Coast, just round the corner from the very sea front; a bright, cool, windy day in early November, 2007. Steps and stairways lead up to and among buildings that perch precariously on the rise of land from waters to clifftops, and the main street is a steep drop from the new town overlooking the bay to the old town below. Perspective composition for vertiginous effects comes easily in places like this, and the texture of buildings which have stood, in some cases, since the 1600s, always makes for visually engaging photography. Photo by Mike, 2007.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Case for Filmspeed Adjustment...

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My UK trip in late 2006 was my first really major digital foray, at least with an up to date camera with sophisticated capabilities. I wasn't clear on many of the functions and had heard all sorts of conflicting stories about just how digital photography compared and contrasted with the physical age. Show me a Pentax K1000 and a roll of film, and I'll make it sit up and talk... "Virtual grain" was a concept I was worried about, and prefered to minimise motion than risk resolution damage, especially as I was looking to cram as many shots as possible onto my flashcards and was shooting at only 2mp to start with. This shot was taken at the RAF Museum, Hendon, in the northern suburbs of London, in early December '06. You might think that so many lights glaring off polished aluminium would make for ample illumination, but not so: with a filmspeed of 200 selected, to increase light gain but still stay safely in the fine-grain range, the camera was on the verge of motion problems all the time. I started using steadying supports -- beams, railings, anything. In this shot of the B-17G, the camera is on top of a post in the walkway fence -- see it snaking toward the POV at left? Don't even ask about flash, the FinePix S5600's flash wouldn't reach as far as the propellors. Of course, it turns out I could have raised the filmspeed by a factor of four before encountering virtual grain, but I didn't know that at the time... Photo by Mike, 2006.

Winter in the rose garden at Willunga

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The magic of the computer and of Irfanview, particularly) are at work in this picture. It was a winter's day ... cold, quite cloudy, windy, dull, with rain in patches. Yet you'd think this was a summer's day, from the contrast and color saturation! The tip-off that tells you it's winter is way over on the left: there's one deciduous tree in the image ... and it's skeletal, not a leaf on it. The rest are various kinds of Australian gum trees, which don't drop their foliage in winter -- in fact, they shred their bark in summer! This is the rose garden at Willunga, though the roses had just been given a hard prune when this pictue was taken: cut back your roses this way and it's ten weeks to a riot of new blooms! Photo by Jade, 2007.

Noon on the dunes

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You can feel the shimmer of heat on the dunes just inland of the beach. It's close to noon and the light is bright beyond description. The tricks to a photo like this are sharpness of focus on the fiddly little elements of the plants (not too difficult if you know where you are with manual focus), and -- the exposure. It's so bright, the sand will be trying to burn out to white, while you want a good range of tonal "zones" in the image. This picture was only cropped in the computer -- the exposure was managed in the camera. Wrangling manual exposure in digital cameras is a challenge, but if you invest an hour in experimentation, you'll reap the benefits forever. Photo by Mel, 2007.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ripples in a Pond

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This was simply an opportunistic frame -- the play of reflections of trees and sky in pond water, rippled by wind. Nothing clever, just point and shoot, but look at the texture, the motion of the water -- there is beauty in the simplest thing. This was an afternoon at Mt. Crawford Forest, May 2008; Fuji FinePix S5600, on automatic. Photo by Mike, 2008.

Tribute to the pioneers in Fairbanks, Alaska

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There's an easy way to tell that this picture was captured in summer: the water's flowing! In winter the fountains will be ice, and Golden Heart Plaza -- in the heart of Fairbanks, Alaska -- will be white with snow. Its a lovely spot, right beside the Tanana River, a great place to take a packed lunch and watch the world go by, on sunny days from May to September. The statue is a tribute to the pioneers -- fearless colonists and their dogs -- who opened up Alaska. This image was taken in the summer of 1998. The camera would have been a Pentax K-1000 or the Olympus OM-10 ... and most likely the Pentax (there's a subtle difference in shots captured by the Olympus; I preferred the Pentax and traded the Olympus for a second K-1000 later in '98). The lens would have been the standard 49mm Pentax original. The print was recently scanned at 600dpi and color-corrected: the decade-old prints are starting to fade. Photo by Mel, 1998.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A World of Glass

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Glass... The transparent solid composed of silicon and oxygen... Silicone dioxide, in fact. It's a shot like this that reminds you how much we depend on it. There's glass in the camera lens -- the advent of digital recording and video imaging changed nothing about the fact that optics require lenses, and they are made of glass. There's glass in the architecture, huge amounts of it. And it was shot through glass: note the reflections, including the photographer's hand at far left. This frame was captured through the upper windows of a double-decker London bus on a chilly afternoon in early December, 2006, somewhere between Victoria Station and Westminster, on the way to Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery. Fuji FinePix S5600, on auto.

Gone bush!

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Gone bush. The words have an almost mystical quality about them in this country, because they mean ... packed up the tent and gone waaaay out yonder, well beyond network coverage, won't be back till Tuesday, earliest, so don't come looking. They can also mean, "Have vanished for the foreseeable future, gone 4x4 adventuring, will be back when I'm good and ready, with an esky full of barramundi on ice." In other words ... civilization has been shrugged off, one has returned to nature! The quest for sanity has commenced! This imaged is through the windscreen, on one of the access roads leading to the Deep Creek Conservation Park. It's primordial ... raw ... primal. Some of my best pictures are through the windscreen. The rules are simple: clean the glass to avoid "ufos;" zoom out to about 100mm to get past the windscreen wipers and windscreen surround; try to keep the radio aerial out of the picture -- or crop it out later; set a fast shutter speed, because the car is moving and all roads are bumpy; and watch out for the sun direction, because if the light falls directly through the windscreen you'll get "glare," and a reflection off the dash mat into the glass. Stick to these rules and you can get some amazing pictures. Have fun! Photo by Jade, 2006.

Still life, with wine casks

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Here's a taste of history, standing at the entry to a carpark in McLaren Vale ... those wine barrels could be fifty year sold -- or older! "Life meets art" here, too. The photo has been profoundly enhanced to produce an affect almost like a painting. The original photo was captured with the Fuji S6500fd ... and was flat, without much color, and "washed out" by the lighting conditions. At the software level, the contrast was flattened, the color was resaturated, the whole image was darkened, and then sharpened to the point where it takes on the "art" look. Photo by Mel, 2007.

View From The Trees

there is russia

The galah is a very common parrot down here in Australia. It is called a Rose-Breasted Cockatoo outside of Aus, but down here (where it comes from) we just call it a galah. They are very playful birds, especially the young ones. They have a loud cheep and an even louder screech when they are trying to act tough. But nothing like the Sulfur's ultra loud squawk though.

This bloke was about 15 feet up a tree, the Fuji S6500fd was on full manual zoom and the camera settings were for full automatics. I just let the camera do all the work and it did it brilliantly. Photo by dave

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Reflex Shooting, Sort Of...

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London is such a varied town, there's still plenty to see and commit to pixels away from the classic sights. But sometimes you need to be quick on the trigger... This is part of the new residential complex of the East End around the old canals, the "Docklands" district, and the frame was captured through the window of the DLR, the Docklands Light Railway, an elevated railway connecting the Tower with Maritime Greenwich and points further east. There are multiple bridges and elevated stations, the railway threads amongst and through buildings and is a marvel of engineering. To capture a frame with no blur, no window reflections, and with the camera on an even keel, while juggling a pack and cheek by jowl with other passengers, was not easy! But steadying the camera against the glass, pointed directly outward, then looking ahead to time the arrival of the clear space of the next bridge and tripping the release as the vista opens out, is a good way of minimising the problems. FinePix S5600, full auto. Photo by Mike, November 2007.

In the bee-loud glade...

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We'd just pulled into a carpark (parking lot, if you prefer) somewhere in the countryside. From memory, I think we were going to buy fruit -- it was one of those places where you pick your own. They give you a bucket, point you at the orchard, and weigh your haul when you get back down the hill. So: turn off the engine, open the door ... and the silence is counterpointed by the drone of bees. You've heard the line in the poem, about "the bee-loud glade" --? This was it. There must have been a thousand of them, working over a bright-orange native shrub, and these insects were so focused on their work, they didn't care when a human brought a camera within inches of them. It would have been one of the Fujis ... I suspect it was the FinePix S6500fd. The setting would have been Macro, and it could easily have been manual focus, though the automatics do a fine job on this kind of work. Photo by Jade, 2007.

Windows onto pure color

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Some of the most amazing usages of color are found in stained glass windows. You normally associate these with churches ... images of saints and holy people performing wondrous works -- but it's not always so! Several wineries trading in the McLaren Vale region of South Australia display some amazing stained glass windows, and only one of them began life as a church. This winery's label is -- fittingly! -- Chapel Hill. The building was certainly a church, but these days the interior is given over to wine casks, the relief of coolness after the summer heat, and some of the best wines this state produces. Photographing stained glass is always a challenge. You must take control, don't let the camera do its own thing! Go to manual exposure and work out a happy medium between the darkest and brightest areas of the glass; then focus with great care on the straight, or hard, lines in the images. Photo my Mel, 2008.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Momma Koala

baby koala in tree

I see a lot of koalas when I'm out hiking around Belair National Park --which happens to be Australia's first National Park. Every once in a while I'll spy one with a baby. The mother with baby usually stay way up high in the gum trees, but these were only about 15 feet up in a bluegum. The Fuji S6500fd was on full automatics, and I think it did a great job with the difficult lighting. Photo by dave.

Candy Lights on a Dark Harbour

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This is one of those times when basic theory cross-cuts even the most sophisticated automatic metering system. It was a very cold evening in Whitby, North Yorkshire, the day after Guy Fawkes' Night '07 (there were still a few fireworks going off) and I had ridden the bus back from Scarborough, shooting all day long. Walking back from the bus exchange to my hotel I took the opportunity to try artificial light shots under full dark, and though exposures were always excellent the shutter speed was very low, which made holding the S5600 rock steady was the name of the game. (I didn't want to experiment with virtual filmspeed, I'd had a long enough day!) This frame was taken with the camera jammed down hard on a railing on the harbour swing bridge, looking seaward along the cafes and amusement arcades on the waterfront, and was one of a few shots where I avoided any motion streaking.

Winter trees, blue skies

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Winter is my favorite time of year -- I don't like the heat. Winter is the time when the landscape of South Australia is green as Ireland, and since the native trees don't drop their leaves, you have what appears at first glance to be a European summer landscape ... green hill and lush, abundant trees. Look again! The deciduous trees which were planted here in profusion by the European settlers are all skeletal, leafless, and ... mossy. Here's your clue to the fact that you're in winter, no matter what the rest of the landscape looks like. Which means you have to be in the southern hemisphere, by default! The conditions were brilliant though the day was cold. Bright conditions made for small apertures and ultra-sharp pictures. Fuji FinePix S5500, digitally enhanced in software later. Photo by Jade, 2007.

Not a drop to drink

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Drought. The word raises a shiver -- and if it doesn't, it should. Australia is having a rough time with water shortages now, and in the last few years the water restrictions have started to bite. We're not rationed yet, but what you can do with water is strictly legislated! This picture was taken on the Fleurieu Peninsula in February 2008, almost a year ago at the time of this writing. It's summertime, and it's ... hot, dry, bright. Relentless. The camera would have been one of the Fujis; the conditions were perfect for digital cameras, and I have no doubt I left the camera to take care of everything -- I would have been too busy sweating to worry about the details! Photo by Mel, 2008.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Hot, Lazy Days Down Under

hot lazy days

Well, what else is a black furred cat supposed to do when it's 102 F in the shade? Oh, yes, go lie in the direct sun where it's about 120 F and then take a nap. The angle of the shot was intended to try to make lines converge and show what can be done with right angles at a different perspective. Personally, I think the cat really makes the shot. Taken with the Fuji S6500fd on full automatics. Photo by dave.