Archive for February, 2010


Snowdonia

Snowdonia

A short post, on Monday I took a walk in the snow in Snowdonia.  Due to ice and mist, I walked up the Miner’s Track to where in joins the Pyg Track, then retuned along the Pyg Track. This was generally a very easy walk, apart from the steep climb at the end of the Miner’s Track where it joins the Pyg Track.  This was steep, and as I was the one of first to climb in the morning, hidden in snow and slippy.  I hope to have the weather to get make it worthwhile getting to the top next time.

A few photos from the trip can be found here.

Photos from the walk are here, generally shot in Aperture Priority.  Panoramas shot handheld, merged in PT Gui. B&W conversion in Silver Efex Pro.

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The Abandoned Road

While in Derbyshire I took a trip to Mam Tor.  While the weather was not good for shooting the landscape, it was perfect for exploring the abandoned road at the base of the hill, above the village of Castleton.  A slideshow of the photoset can be found here

Due to the white sky, I generally took a selection of exposures for later compositing in Photomatix.  To exploit the old, broken, empty and abandoned  feeling of the area, I felt I should match this with dark claustrophobic processing. The starting point for this was the Pin Hole preset in Silver Efex Pro.  I find this emphasises the feeling of decay.

There is about 300 metres of abandoned road that has been subject to significant subsidence due to the area’s geology.  On a good day it is probably possible to get good results combining the road with a view down the valley, but on my visit the wider view was largely obscurred by mist.

360 Panorama of Campsite on Bleaklow

Having seen some pictures link of the B29 plane wreck on Bleaklow Moor, near Snake Pass, in the Peak District, I have wanted to take a look myself for a few months.

Leaving Birmingham after work on Friday, I took wanted to go straight to the crash site to camp for the night, so that I would be there for first light in the morning.

Campsite on Bleaklow

In the pitch black I followed the Pennine Way along the Devil’s Dyke for about 2 miles from the Snake Pass, not far from Glossop.  At the chosen point, at the top of Hern Cough I headed off the pass, across the moor towards the grid

reference I’d picked up from the internet.  This proved tricky, the land if full of dips and raised areas of grass, which make walking in a straight line impossible.  Normally one could pick a landmark in the right direction to head towards, but I’d left it until after dark before setting off, and in driving snow visibility was down to about 5 metres.  However using the Iphone’s GPS I was able to get in the approximate area of the plane, and find a hollow, out of the worst of the wind to camp for the night.

By morning, it had stopped snowing, and fortunately the mist was high enough to be able to see the surrounding moor.  Within 5 minutes I was able to find the plane.

Crash Site

I was surprised at the amount of wreckage, especially considering the plane crashed over 60 years ago in 1948.  I guess to the weather conditions, and the early start, I had the site to myself for about 2 hours (although I was joined by a passing white hare for a split second).

Due to the brightness of most frames, I set my camera to bracket +/- 1 stop in aperture priority mode.  Doing this allowed my to work quickly in the cold, knowing that for each scene, even i the meter was fooled by the light grey mist and cloud, and the white snow, I’d have a good exposure to work with when it came to processing.  Doing this saved me having to change too many settings, and so allowing me to keep my gloves on.  I wandered around the site first with a wide angle 11-22mm lens (22-44 35mm equivalent), then switched to a 40-150mm (80-300 35mm equivalent) to pick out some details.  I finished up with a second session with a wide angle. Again, I avoided changing the lens too many times, this allowed me to leave my back hidden behind a memorial stone and meant I minimised the times I had to stop in the cold. Generally, for the scenes with most white +1 stop was, as expected a good exposure, although for the close up shots, or shots with most dark wreckage, normal or -1 stop compensation was used for post processing.  Post processing was in Lightroom and then black and white conversion in Silver Efex Pro.

My waterproof trousers were very handy here, allowing me to lie and kneel on the snow without discomfort.

The memorial over the site reads:

“In Memory: Here lies the wreckage of B-29 Superfortress “Overexposed” of the 16th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, USAF which tragically crashed whilst descending through cloud on 3rd November 1948 killing all 13 crew members.

The Aircraft was on a routine flight from RAF Scampton to American AFB Burtonwood.  It is doubtful the crew ever saw the ground.”

Memorial

The most striking part of the site are the plane’s four engines.  These made great subjects, with their frosted up heat sinks and gears, and drive shafts (I guess?) poking out the back.

The only other recognisable (to me) part was the undercarriage. I was able to find a set of small wheels attached to some debris which I imagine were under the wing, and a far larger wheel, perhaps from under the fuselage.  The larger wheel amazingly seemed to have the remnants of a tyre still attached – 60 years old…

Debris

Debris

The rest of the wreckage was anonymous to me, just sections of twisted, torn and decayed metal.

I have tried to capture wider scene of the crash site, and also picked out a few details, such as the rivets and the memorials left, I guess last November for Remembrance Day.

No doubt if this accident had taken place in a more accessible place most of the wreckage would have been looted by now, as it is remains a fitting tribute to the 13 men who died in the crash.

A slideshow of the images in this set can be found here

Flickr Scripts

I have recently discovered Grease Monkey add on for Firefox, which allows installation of a number of Flickr enhancements.

I particularly like the Group Sender, and the Background Changer.

Here is a top ten scripts as selected by the Digital Photography School.

The Woods

On the weekend I was introduced to a site spotted by HeBeDeBe previously.  The description to his picture describes a “derelict cottage in the middle of the woods” which souded tempting. Kindly Mr HeBeDeBe offered to show me to the spot.

Please have a look at the story of our visit, then take a look at this slideshow of 14 images.

The Back Door of the Cottage

The Back Door. The Bottle on the Windowsill.

I’ve recently grown to enjoy taking pictures of decay; rusty, crusty and dusty scenes lending themselves to a contrasty black and white shot I get great enjoyment from.

First impressions of the cottage were very promising.  Deep in conversation, we were almost past the cottage before I saw it.  The nearby trees having almost grown trough what was perhaps once the porch.

In the front room not a lot remained, an upturned piece of unregonisable furniture dominating the room, however small objects left around were just enough to show that this room was once someone’s home.  Like the bottle and sandal on the window frame, and old, broken wooden tennis racket.  Off the main room was a strange 3/4 hight entrance to small half room, containing a stove.  Without gas and electric supplies, this may have been for heat.

Into the middle room we have more signs of a past life.  This looks like it was a living room. The in the middle of the room are three chairs; two wooden cushioned chairs sit by the fireplace, a folding wooden chair has been knocked over.  Along the side of the room is a battered sofa and an additional chair, perhaps ready to pull out when visitors arive.  On the windowsill in the lounge (I’ve decided that is what it was) is a mirror, half hidden by the fluttering, yellowed window drape.  On the floor, amoungst bags full of bottles, there is a small tin of boot polish.  In the fireplace is a metal gas stove, half fallen over. Now making the room feel colder.

The Lounge

The Lounge

At the far end of the cottage to the entrance I find the kitchen.  This is the most interesting room, appearing to have been left almost untouched since the owner left (apart from the stairs falling in).

The Kitchen Table

The Kitchen Table

On the table by the window are a selection of jars and cake tins; Bird’s Gravy Mix and a muffin tray.  On the cupboard, clearly emptied, a decorative biscuit tin.  Opposite the window is a table covered with upturned plates, and leaves. Just visible through the grime is an old tub of nivea. If there was a kettle, we coud have used one of the cups hanging up.

Washing Up

Washing Up

On the back of the cottage is an extra room, containing a bath, weedkiller and a seive.  The roof of this room is almost non existant, although the toilet paper on a bean above the door looks quite usable.

Weedkiller & Meths

Weedkiller & Meths

Bathroom

Fancy a Bath

On the walk back to the car, we pass a shed. While the house was intact, the shed has completly fallen in on itself.  We can still see a pair of wheels, perhaps from a trolley to bring in supplies from a nearby village?

A man trimming his hedge at  a local farm informed us that the former occupier was an author, who died and was taken away on a horse and cart.

Geeky Bits: Due to the low light levels in the wood, all photos were taken with tripod.  I used an F5.6 aperture, as this gives the sharpest results on my Olympus 11-22 mm Lens (22-44 35mm equiv), and a two second delay after the mirror went up to eliminate camera shake.  Inside shutter speeds were 2-10 seconds. Outdoors 1/30 to 2/3 second.  On the day of this visit the sky was overcast, which I think helped by reducing harsh shadows.

Processing was done in Nik Software Silver Efex Pro.  Brightness was tweaked if necessary, then contrast was adjusted locally to pick out the interesting details and focal points.  Edges were burnt to give a vintage feel and draw the eye into the shots.

Any comments of thoughts welcome, either here or on the flickr pages the photos link to.

Photoshop Mobile

Photoshop Mobile

Photoshop.com Mobile (Version 1.1.0.21)

Released in late 2009 the Official Adobe Photoshop Application is downloadable for free.  While it obviously can’t provide all the functionality of Photoshop itself, it does allow the Iphone user to make basic image manipulations.

The Screen shows four key menus for altering images, with functions placed in a logical order so that it makes sense to work left to right.

The first menu helps tweak composition, with Crop, Straighten, Rotate and Flip tools.  The crop tool unsurprisingly creates a box, the corners of which can be dragged to position where the image will be cropped.  The Straighten tool creates a grid marking over the image, which can then be rotated by dragging a finger up or down either side of the screen.  Compared to the user interface for straightening found in photogene v2.5, this is far easier to control, and the grid lines make it simple to line up a horizon horizontally, or a building vertically.  To keep things simple, there is also a rotate tool which works in the same way but without the gridlines, so an image can be turned in 90 degree steps.  Finally in this section, there is a flip tool.  Using the Iphones facility to interpret swipes of a finger, to flip the image vertically an up/down swipe is needed, and for a mirror image a left right swipe is used.

Composition Tools

Composition Tools

After the composition is completed, the user moved onto the next set of tools, which we can call colour.  The first tool here is Exposure to brighten or darken an image.  Again this tool, as do most others, allow the user to swipe left to right to increase exposure (brighten), or right to left to decrease exposure (darken the image), in total there appear to be steps of +/- 64 settings for exposure, which should allow accurate adjustments.  Saturation (how vivid the colours appear) and Contrast (darkens darks, lightens lights) works in exactly the same manner as the exposure control, by swiping either left to right to increase Saturation or Contrast, and right to left to decrease.

The final two options under the colour menu are black and white, which converts an image to greyscale, and Tint.  By swiping left/right on the screen tint converts the image so that it uses varying brightness of the same colour.

After the colour menu we move onto a filter menu, with three options: Sketch, Soft Focus and Sharpen.  Sketch appears to apply a posterising effect, reducing the number of colours used in an image.  Swiping left to right changes the strength of this effect (number of colours used).

Soft Focus appears to reduce the contrast of an image, which would perhaps be a nice effect on a close up portrait to give a flattering skin effect.  On my Iphone I found the controls for this tool slightly unwieldy, but with trial and error it is possible to apply a subtle effect.  While the application has an indicator to show how the strength of the soft focus effect which indicates that there are 254 different strength steps, in reality it appears there are about five.

Sharpening allows the user to increase definition of an image, which is important on all digital images and should be the last step of manipulation.  On an Iphone this is a particularly important tool due to the relatively low quality of lens and tiny sensor.  The tool seems to work well and allows fine tuning of sharpening so an appropriate amount can be set.

In the final menu, there are two tools.  Firstly Effects offers a selection of 7 presents is varying usefulness.  Vibrant appears to boost saturation, contrast and sharpening, so is a simple way of making an image appear clear and attractive.  ‘Pop’ applied an Andy Warhol type effect, replicating the image 4 times in a square with different tints. Vignette Blur applies a blur effect to the edges of an image; this can be effective in giving a narrow depth of field effect, so that for example a person is a portrait is separated from a complex background. Warm vignette appears to soften an increase the colour an image; I can barely detect a vignette being applied. Rainbow gives an alternative set of tinted stripes. White glow brightens and image and reduces contrast and finally black and white reduced contrast and creates a grey scale image.  While Vibrant, and vignette blur may be useful timesavers, I see the other effects and gimmicks that I doubt will be used very often.

Prior to saving the photo, it may be nice to add a frame.  As mentioned in my Photogene 2.5 review, a thin black frame helps define the edges of pale images on a white background, so is useful for Flickr and Facebook. The Borders tool offers eight present frames, with white rectangle, rounded rectangle and oval, a faded rectangle, rounded rectangle and oval, a film emulsion effect and an effect called halftone (shown below).  It is not possible to edit these borders.

Emulsion Frame

Emulsion Frame

Halftone Border

Halftone Border

To finish the image can be saved, and uploaded to Photoshop.com.

Verdict: Nice range of tools, although lacking the precise control given by Photogene, Photoshop Mobile has a slicker user interface.

Price: £Free!

Pros: Interface, Price

Cons: Has a tendancy to crash on my 3G Iphone, no custom borders/levels controls.

Photogene Title PagePhotogene offers a variety of image editing tools previously unavailable to the Iphone.  Arranged in a series of icons on the left of the screen (portrait or landscape),the tools are easy and intuitive to select and apply the to a photo.  As with most Iphone photo applications, the user can either take a new photo from within the application, or select a new photo from the picture library.

The tools are arranged in a logical order, so typically one will can work from the top tool down to the bottom, however it is possible to use the tools in any order, or go back and tweak an effect.

Crop: The first step is to crop a picture to improve composition, perhaps remove distractions from the edges of the frame.  With the Iphone’s (3g at least) poor close focusing this is useful to get a small subject to dominate the frame.  To crop, like in photoshop, corners of a new frame are dragged into position, prior to a crop being applied.

Mirror/Rotate: Perhaps less useful, but nice to have, the application has options to rotate in 90 degree steps, flip the photo vertically or horizontally.  A slider is available for more subtle rotations, maybe to straighten a horizon.

Filters: Photogene currently has a set of 7 filters to choose from.  On the Iphone I often find some Sharpening can really help an image “Pop”.  A sepia splitone can be an effective way of presenting some picture, and can be applied in varying degrees.  The other filters are perhaps less essential, Pencil, Blur, Posterise, Night Vision, and Heatmap.  A Black and White filter is available, which converts the picture to black and white, surprisingly. However this is 2 colour black and white, not a greyscale option.  A slider can be used to adjust the brightness level where black or white is chosen.

BLack and White Filter Screen Shot

Black and White Filter

Colour Adjust: The Colour Adjust menu includes Photogene’s most useful tools.  Firstly, there is a levels control, common in most photo editing software, but I’ve not seen this elsewhere on an Iphone app.  Slight adjustments using the levels control can give pictures an effective contrast boost, particularly to make sure that blacks are black. After levels, there are exposure and contrast controls, however these are possibly surplus to requirements to a user happy working with the levels tool.

Levels

Levels

A colours option allows adjustment of the pictures saturation and colour temperature using a pair of sliders.  Desaturating an image allows creation of conventional black and white images, although I would normally do this before adjusting levels.  I have rarely wanted to use the colour temperature

control, usually being happy with the Iphone’s auto colour temperature on image capture, however it is nice to know the option to adjust this is there if needed.

Saturationan Colour Temperature

Saturation and Colour Temperature

The final tool under colour adjustment is to adjust the RGB settings.  Again, I have rarely used this tool, but it can be used to give a tint to an image, again with three sliders for red, green and blue.

Symbols tools allow the user to insert coloured shapes onto the phone, such as speech bubbles, stars etc.  A small choice of fonts in available to place text onto these shapes, after a chosen shape has been dragged onto the picture and sized to suit.

The final tool is allows a selection of frames.  A good variety of choices is available, such as square, and rounded with customised line colour and thickness.  When posting a picture to a website with a white background (facebook, flickr), a think black frame is great for marking the edge of a pale picture from the background. Options are available to give shadow effects to the frame.

After editing is completed, Photogene allows the photo to be saved at a custom resolution, and then exported directly to a selection of social media sites, including facebook and twitter.

Verdict:  The most feature packed image editing app I’ve found for the Iphone.

Cost: £1.99

Pros: Number of tools, simple interface, not crashed yet

Cons: Potentially over complex, without presets it can take a while to get the desired ‘look’ and so maybe overkill for a mobile phone app? Photoshop.com app is free.