This week’s photo isn’t magical in and of itself, but the editing that I did to it feels like some sort of voodoo magic that produces amazing pictures. It’s for the WPC found here
I edited this picture with GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) a free program that’s just like photoshop. I know a lot of people probably already know how to do stuff like this, but this is the first time I’ve done anything so complicated and I feel really excited by the result! What do you think? Old hat or still a fun technique?
“John Loengard, the picture editor at Life, always used to tell me, ”If you want something to look interesting, don’t light all of it.”
– Joe McNally, The Moment It Clicks: Photography Secrets from One of the World’s Top Shooters
As part of my ongoing series about photography, I wanted to talk about how to take a picture indoors.
Indoor shooting is relatively simple once you know how, because light levels tend to be more constant than they are outdoors, where clouds can cause serious problems with over or under exposed photos. I also have an article with more general info about setting up a shot.
Lighting lighting lighting:
Some people claim you can never light too much, but if that lighting is uneven, you will get a better shot by ditching some of the lighting and changing your camera settings to adjust for low light levels – you can do this by slowing down your shutter speed (1/30 will let more light in than 1/300), by increasing your ISO, or by changing your f-stop number to a lower number (1.8 will let in more light than 4.6, but check your lens, some don’t go down very low). If you do have access to bright, even lighting, you want to play around (left, right, and top are usually where you put them) to find the best positioning for your lights. Remember to adjust the white balance on the camera if you’re using artificial lighting or everything has a tendency to come out yellow.
Tidy the area in and around the shot, because unexpected things will end up in frame if you forget about them and move the camera slightly. I’ll never forget the time I’d done a set of photos for this website, and it was only when I was resizing them that I realized a couple of the pictures had a pair of old socks in the background!!
Put the camera on a stable surface if you can, such as a tripod – this is essential for video. While you don’t need a tripod specifically, any stable surface should be fine, it’s easier to change the height and levelling of the camera with a tripod. For Youtubing, I put my camera on the wooden flat bit at the top of my headboard and I sometimes raise it with paperback books.
Playing around with angles is one of the fastest ways to improve pictures from sort-of-meh, or flat, to vibrant shots that will jump out at the viewers. Even the most boring of things can look totally different depending how you shoot them. Tilt your camera up or down, increasing or decreasing height of the camera to ensure the subject is still in the viewfinder, to experiment with different angles.
If you’re using manual focus, you need to make sure you’ve adjusted it. With automatic focus, check that the key elements of the shot are actually in focus. I had one bridge camera whose autofocus had a terrible habit of focusing on the least interesting component of any given shot, which drove me to distraction because it didn’t have a manual option – this terrible focal problem was the entire reason I snapped and bought my DSLR.
Finally, when you’ve got your shot set up, take your picture. I always re-take at least twice to make sure I got everything right.
So I’ve been very, very busy editing my next two books, which are coming out in quick succession this month by the publisher. Titles and links and such shall be divulged once such things exist. In the meantime, some photos:
Can you believe it’s June today??? It’s going to be my wedding anniversary in 3 weeks. I swear it wasn’t 2 years since we got married!!!
The WPC this week was Jubilant. Which means really cheerful.
Well I’m stuck into editing my next book at the moment, it should be out in a few weeks time, I’ll let you know, but I did get some beautiful pictures of cherry blossom this week and I do always think the pink snowfall of cherry blossom is one of the happiest sights in the world. It always reminds me of wedding confetti only you don’t have to be at a wedding to enjoy May blossom.
In Japan they hold festival celebrations for it.
I took my camera out to do some more infrared photography last Sunday but since I’ve had very sick rabbits this week I’ve not had a chance to share them with you. They really do encompass a small and more unusual portion of the beauty of the Earth so I thought they’d fit nicely for the WPC this week.
Here’s my take on the weekly photo challenge then:
I’m so excited to share with you my first infra red photographs! I’ve wanted a camera that could take infra red photos since I first heard that they existed. I know my readers have different levels of experience when it comes to photography, some of you are experts and some of you are, like me, just stepping out with artistic photography so it was hard to make this article readable without being too technical or patronising.
I decided to make this my second entry for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Abstract because the challenge was to make the familiar unfamiliar, and it’s certainly done that. Scroll down for the two best photos (last two) or have a read of the journey behind this photograph.
For those of you who have never come across infra red (IR) photography, it’s not the heat-detection infra red (Far Infra Red) but it’s near-infra red, so it’s only a tiny bit outside the visible light spectrum (what we can usually see). Infra red light comes from the sun and is reflected off everything just like regular light.
As you can see from the lead picture, it’s very different to the infra red cameras that the police use on those police chase shows, this doesn’t detect body heat and can’t see what you ate for breakfast (eww), this is MUCH more beautiful and artistic, and I fell in love with IR photography the first time I saw pictures, when I was putting a presentation together for a science lecture about 3 years ago. I swore that day that, when I had the money, I’d buy a camera that could do infra red (not the app on the iphone or the Photoshop setting that edits pictures to look like they’re IR when they’re not), and so when I bought my camera for Youtubing and photography, I made sure it would be able to do this by pointing the TV remote control at my camera. I saw the red beam through my digital viewfinder, so I knew my camera could take IR pictures, now it just needed the right filter.
I bought a £10 filter for my camera and it arrived just before the sun left for winter. You don’t need a sunny day, but you do need bright natural light for IR photography to work – outdoors, natural features, midday-ish works best. A tripod isn’t mandatory but it will help.
Today, FINALLY, I got around to trying out my IR filter.
This is what the first picture looked like:
Disappointed wasn’t the word. What was wrong with my camera??? Was the cheap lens filter I bought a dud?
So I fiddled around with the settings wondering why nobody on the internet seemed to have an article entitled: Infra red photography picture went black.
I changed a few things around and kicked myself.
It was too dark because, while I’d turned the shutter speed to max, I’d also dropped the ISO to 100 (the lowest on my camera).
When I wrote that presentation, 3 years ago, I remember reading that ISO has to be really really high for IR photography to work. That’s why some cameras can’t do it.
So I flipped it up to 12,800 and hit the shutter to auto detect, and magically, I got this:
After fiddling around with the settings, refining the focus etc, I finally got both of these:
As you can see I need to practice – the hardest thing is focussing without autofocus or a viewfinder (you literally cannot see what you’re going to get) because the lens I’m using doesn’t have a “lock focus.” Some lenses have a little graph on the side to help you focus accurately but this one doesn’t. I think trial and error is going to be the case with every photo.
Another thing I want to improve about these pictures is that, as you can see in the last picture, distortion from vignetting is really bad when you tilt the camera at a high angle from the ground, I don’t know whether that’s down to the longer wavelength of infra red light, but it seems fine when the angle is closer to horizontal.
All in all though I’m really excited to be trying out this new form of photography to capture the beauty of the natural world, and if you’re looking to do the same, I highly recommend this £10 lens filter that I used (this one is for the standard 18-55mm lens that comes with the Canon camera, if you wanted to use a different lens, check the width of the front of the lens to make sure the filter fits; either way these filters are pretty cheap).
None of these images have been edited in any way they’ve come straight off my memory card from my camera and I resized them to fit WordPress; I’m so excited I want to do more and refine my technique.
Please ask any questions in the comments and I’ll try my best to answer them but I’m definitely not an IR photography expert!
IMPORTANT NOTE ON LENS FILTER: IT MUST FIT THE WIDTH OF YOUR LENS, IF YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO BUY LENS FILTERS, MEASURE THE DIAMETER OF YOUR LENS BEFORE BUYING A FILTER! The lens filter is available in different sizes, it doesn’t need to fit the camera, it needs to fit the front of the lens because it screws onto the front!! Sorry for the shouty capitals but it would be a huge shame if someone got the wrong size lens filter by accident.
I’m going to pick up where I left off last time, after I had just made it back to Zurich station and was now feeling like I was back in civilization having just spent the morning lost in the alps. I sat down over a coffee and wrote postcards to my Grandma and Aunt. This was 2008, a year after the EU smoking ban, which Switzerland was exempt from, so smoking indoors was a bit of a novelty and I did make the most of it (I don’t smoke now so I think I would hate to return to any country without an indoor ban on smoking). I asked two nice backbackers to take my photo with one of my disposable cameras.
From my travel journal:
“Next, I went to the station newsagent and negotiated stamps in German (all credit went to the pan-European phrasebook I’d packed). Next I searched for a post-box. “Excuse me?” I flagged down a passing man. “Hey there!” The friendly American accent warmed my soul. “I don’t suppose you’ve seen the nearest post box, have you?” “Sure! It’s just out there, on the left. It’s yellow.” He said. “Thank you very VERY much.” I replied. “No problem.” He said. I followed the directions and found the post box just outside the station, then posted my post cards and hoped that was actually a post box (that, or I’d just put them in a used ticket disposal box, but I hoped not because they were nice postcards).
Then I got the 9:00am train to Milan, which terminated at Venice. Depending on what time it gets in, I may just stay on the train rather than aiming for Verona. However, I would prefer to stay in Verona as from there it would be easier to get back to Calais. What followed was a wonderful train ride through the Swiss alps.
The scenery is beautiful, especially around Zug station – if I ever get a chance to go to Switzerland again, Zug is the place to go! Unfortunately, it also means I have already began using up my 3rd disposable camera – I’ll have to get another couple in Italy. The scenery of grassy fells, snowy mountains and powder-sprinkled pine trees is absolutely breathtaking. It’s much nicer to see the Alps from the ground than in an aeroplane! I’m glad not to have tried travelling onwards in the dark otherwise I would have missed this, which would have been unforgivable.
…I think I’ve just done my bit to ensure the continental opinion of English eccentricity; I took a photo of my compartment (because I’ve never been on a train with compartments before, this is like being on the Hogwarts Goddamn Express), but I waited until the other occupants had moved because it’s perhaps a bit over-zealous even for a tourist.
(a little bit later) As we emerge from the Alps, the architectural style has become markedly Italian, with the arched windows and straight-pitched, less high roofs. We are still in Switzerland, but signs for “ristorante touristes” are at the side of the road which runs parallel with the train track. There is also significantly less snow, but the sky is still that clear, brilliant blue, and the sun feels warm now. I feel less close to the sky again – being on the German side of Switzerland was like standing on a very high plateau, and it’s nice, but I’m glad to be at my normal altitude again. Hopefully it will be sunny in Verona and even more I hope that the tourist office is open so I can find accommodation between now and Tuesday (the Easter weekend is now upon us).”
Changing trains in Milan, I was profoundly disappointed. It was standard tall buildings type of architecture, nothing particularly chic or attractive about the place, it could have been absolutely anywhere. I decided to continue onwards. The next train was, now that I was in Italy, run by Trenitalia. It had dents all over the outside of the carriages and inside, there was no air conditioning, people were just crammed on top of each other. Opposite me, a woman sat down with a chicken in a cage. An actual chicken. It was squawking up a fuss and flapping its feathers everywhere, and she insisted, on this full-to-bursting train, that the chicken needed its own seat, even when a man tried to sit down. This tiny old woman clung to the chicken cage with a death grip and started shouting at him until he left the carriage. I was too timid to get a photo of the ridiculous chicken.
Later that evening, I disembarked at Verona train station and booked 3 nights in a hotel (Novo Hotel Rossi) in Verona, where I decided to remain for the rest of the Easter weekend. Annoyingly, despite it being the Easter Saturday, when everything is usually business as usual in the UK, in Verona, literally everything (apart from one Sushi restaurant) was closed and since I didn’t speak Italian (I do now, this trip is what prompted me to learn when I got back), I couldn’t understand the signs in the shop doors.
I found the aforementioned Sushi restaurant, only to discover that the staff didn’t speak English, and I didn’t speak Italian, so I ended up trying to order in Japanese. Turns out, only the elderly grandmother could actually speak Japanese but she invited me to share a pot of tea with her after I’d eaten, apparently she’d never met a gaijin who could speak Japanese before. I guess you wouldn’t, living in Verona. I don’t speak very much though (and I sure as hell can’t read it), so she probably found my conversation lacklustre. I’d like to learn more at some point so I can navigate Japanese cosmetics but that’s a bit off topic for a travel post!
Anyway, that was my first day in Verona, and I’d used up over half of my Interrail pass (any 5 days of travel valid for 10 days of travel and non travel), but I decided not to worry about that.
I will continue with my Solo Interrail journey here.
As a side-note, if you are wondering why my posts/response times are erratic, it’s because I’m back to work, now teaching at a facility for children who have been expelled from school, mostly young offenders, which is a very intense job, as well as being quite a drive from my house, and I’m a bit exhausted, but I am interested in everything people have to say still!!