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September Competition – Landscape

James Allan_Twin Falls_Landscape

James Allan_Twin Falls_Landscape

September 25th saw us trial  a new method of entering prints for competition, with titles sent online prior to competition night.  With entrants able to simply walk in and hang their prints on the wall we saved time and freed up half a dozen people, who would previously have been madly recording names and titles and hanging prints, to socialise,  relax and enjoy the night.  We were very happy with the new system which looks set to make life much easier!

Derek Rogers was our judge and he provided helpful critique of each image – told us what he saw as the good and the poor aspects and gave suggestions for improvement.  The general consensus was that he’d been fair, encouraging and quite positive but, as always seems to be the case (because judges are human and photographers are human), some scores were a little surprising and sometimes the judge just doesn’t ‘get’ what the photographer thought the image was about!  Ah, the joys of competition! Overall though, thank you Derek for a great job!

It was great to see one of our newer members doing well in this and recent competitions – congratulations to Gloria Brumfield on having some of the top scoring images!  Looks like those SAPF classes are paying off!   (You’ll probably tell me those photos were taken before you did the classes, huh?)

To see some of the top images from the night go to Top Scoring Prints and Top Scoring Projected Images.

There is just one more regular competition to come, followed by the Annual Exhibition.  If you’ve been quietly watching from the sidelines, perhaps now is the time to dip your toe in the water and join the competition!

 

 

The BPC 2015 Calendar has landed!

Yes! Another BPC Calendar has rolled off the presses.

We have trawled the images of our talented club members again and managed to snare the work of 39 different photographers. You may have seen some on the club Flickr group or at a competition or an exhibition or even on these pages – but they are all high quality images that will provide viewing pleasure and maybe inspire you.

This time the calendar editor role has passed to……..me! I’ve been given the task of producing the calendar for 2015 and tried to fill it with mainly local images, but now with a couple of twists. This time you get a glossy cover, a different layout, and each page has a theme (see if you can guess it). We’ve also worked with the printers to reduce page curl for a better product you’ll be pleased to share or give.

Now here’s a thought – Christmas is only 4 months away! So let this little beauty soar to remote locations, give it to your Aunt Mabel or Uncle Bob, surprise your neighbor with a copy over a cuppa, present one to your boss or favourite co-worker or even hang one on the wall in your home or office.

Here’s a YouTube video showing you each page:

The price remains the same –  $15.  Tough bag postage/packaging mail delivery is extra. You can obtain a copy from any club member, email us, or write to the club via snailmail (yes, we do have a postal address). We accept cash, cheques & money orders (payable to Blackwood Photographic Club of SA) and Electronic Funds Transfer (details available upon request) as payment for this great calendar.

Chris :)

 

How did you do that? 14-Aug-2014

How many times have you been to a competition, seen someones works and asked the question “How did you do that?”. Well, tonight was the night we found out.

Helen organised a few of us to share our little secrets. Not really that secret, but enough to inspire some work!

So who did we have?

First up, James Allan describing his little worlds – or extreme panoramas. Fortunately, James put it into a slide presentation, which I’ve reproduced below:

Keen readers will recognise the feature image – and may even see it in our upcoming Calendar (on sale soon!)

Next, Jo Tabe described how she produced some of her stunning HDRs. Yes, there is a tool in Photoshop. Yes, it works. But there are other ways.
First up, get your images – and it need not be all -2, -1, 0, 1 and 2 stops. It can be just the top or bottom three. You can even cheat in Adobe Camera Raw and derive it from one image.
Once you had your image, the merging part took over. Jo’s tool of choice is PhotoMatix – a plugin for Photoshop, Lightroom or Aperture. The trick is to play with the images, allowing for motion in your subject (like trees) and removing halos that form in standard HDR images. As she pointed out the aim is have a high dynamic range – not surreal art.

Alberto Guirelli then ran through some very simple image manipulation to turn bland images into stunners. He should know – he keeps getting awards!
His trick was to use crop and vignette, and importantly, curves. This is the key – set the white and the black points in the image first. Then crop to what you need. His example of the bland looking Tuscan hillside took all of 2 minutes to transform into a stunning wide range image.
The vignetting method from Alberto was a bit more subtle. Use the lasso tool to outline your subject. Then set a smallish feather (about 50 pixels) and apply an unsharp mask to that area (at about 130-140%). Now, invert the selection and change the feather to about 250 pixels. Then darken it with curves. Now you have an irregular vignette that works!
Finally, the tool of choice that shuts the judges up – the clone tool in Photoshop. Get rid of unwanted branches, insects, people etc with the click/drag of a brush!

Next up – me. I rather like macro photography (probably stemming from my work years ago in a histology lab working with all sorts of microscopes – dissecting, dark field, transmission electron, scanning electron etc).
In the plain old photographic world we quickly run up against lack of sharpness and detail due to diffraction as we try to magnify images more and more. The answer lies in Focus Stacking. Here is a little presentation I put together:

Helen Whitford_King of Beasts

Helen Whitford_King of Beasts

Helen – our MC for the night – then showed us how she made King of Beasts (that great lion image) – starting with the lion with the cage behind it – in all its distracting glory. However, using Nikon Capture she demonstrated the removal of that grid, the ultimate vignette, and then the trick that Nikon Capture (which is apparently based on Nik Efex) allows modification of colour range brightness and contrast at an extreme (almost pixel) level. This allowed her to alter fur, reflections and edges with extreme accuracy.

Richard Akroyd then followed up Helen’s demonstration with more about Nikon Capture showing the broad range of what Capture (ie Nik Efex) can do. Could well be worth the $149!

To follow the high tech world of fine level manipulation, Mark Pedlar presented the image manipulation tech of Photoshop layers and the right selection of images. His Hell’s Gate image is a photo that’s been 7 years in the making when he first saw the gate. Assorted attempts at making it look good were not 100% successful. However, with perseverance we can now show how he did it:

So there you have a summary of the nights proceedings. Lots of lessons and methods, but not all of them high tech. In fact, some really simple techniques that result in some of our presenters gaining the highest awards in the amateur photographic world. As Jo said, sometimes all you need to do is play with the tools you have and learn what they do to get the most out of them. Sage advice

Chris ;)

Movie Stills – 31-Jul-2014

Inspired by the movie "Blowup" - A 1966 film directed by Michelangelo Antonioni

Inspired by the movie “Blowup” – A 1966 film directed by Michelangelo Antonioni

Movie Stills. We’ve all seen them – those classic images that entice us to the movies, inspire our photography, fire our imagination and lead us to into another world. The challenge arose after some of us recalled some brilliant work from Cindy Sherman’s book entitled “Untitled Film Stills“. These were not real movie stills, but images that could have been inspired by film noir, and Italian neo-realism (see the reference in Wikipedia)

Well sadly, it seems not many people at BPC understood the brief! The complaint came from the floor that it was too hard. Que? No matter – we still had a few interesting images pop up on the night. Cindy may even have liked some of them!

Judge Keith Seidel helped us out enormously in several ways. First, he was a last minute judge as the original judge couldn’t attend. Thanks so much Keith – we appreciate the effort.
Then, Keith did a superb job of judging the works on offer with constructive, well thought out commentary and criticism. It was a pleasure to stand out the front hanging the images for Keith to evaluate – and having a bit of banter with him along the way (something our little band of renegades is noted for).
As he commented to me afterwards, our work was good, and he was forced to hand out more 10s than usual.

So what about the movie stills? Well there were only two prints in that category (and I’ve put one of them here). There were a few more in the digital section (just 7), including a clever Lego version of Jaws by Dean Johnson. As for the rest – some great Open category images including Helen Whitford’s “A Screeching Halt” triptych and Jo Tabe’s “Just a Short Tail”.

Head over to the Top Prints and Top Digital section to see who scored well.

Chris ;)

Les Peters: The Bird Man of Aldgate – 22-May-2014

Les Peters (photo Ray Goulter)

Les Peters at BPC on 22-May-2014 with part of his bird photography set up

On the 22nd May I had the pleasure of introducing Les Peters as guest speaker to the Blackwod Camera club.  Les is a keen bird photographer living not far from me in the Adelaide Hills.  I became aware of Les’s photography when he gave a similar talk to the Birds SA group some 18 months ago.  Speaking to him after this meeting, he encouraged me to step up from the small Panasonic I was using and buy a Nikon.  As it happens I did buy a Nikon and within weeks he was loaning me his Nikkor 300mm lens.  Les took me out to some of his haunts, Laratinga wetland and Browns road reserve.  I was fascinated by his depth of bird knowledge which is equally matched by his knack for photography.

His presentation was no less intriguing, saturated with his passion for bird photography.  He talked almost without interruption for 90 minutes and showed over 200 excellent bird photographs (a small selection is in the slide show below).   It is hard to comprehend the range and quality of the photos when they come so quickly and intensly.  Les however chatted away, keen to tell the story of each photo.  The birds, as Les describes them, have purpose and personality.  This youngsters learning to fly, this one is making a nest, this one hiding from the camera, this one thought I couldn’t see it.  Some of the birds were common, yet beautifully captured.  Others were uncommon or rare birds and would take great luck and skill to capture.

As he talked he described his techniques.  Sometimes he will stalk the bird with the camera in hand.  However his preferred technique is to sit and wait for the bird to acclimatise to his presence and photograph them as they relax and begin to behave more naturally.  He said it often takes around 20 minutes.  Les often uses a tripod and a flash with a “better beamer”.  Certainly these shots had much stronger detail than the ones he took by hand.  The sharpness and detail of his shots was breath taking. Occasionally he would enlarge a shot 3 or 4 times and I admit I could not see any less detail in the cropped image.  He also described how he photographed birds by remote control.

It was a packed house with over 40 in attendance.  Talking to various people after the meeting, Helen and Jo said they felt inspired, and were looking for an opportunity to hone their skills.  Jo was impressed by Les’s kit.  “That Gimbal head on the tripod is worth a heap.”  Ashley although admitting that Bird Photography was not his thing, learnt much from the evening, especially from the explanation of the techniques.  He was amazed that it only took 20 minutes to familiarise yourself to the birds.  Richard found useful Les’s advice to get to know the behaviour of the birds in order to take better photos of them.   Ray lamented that there were too many images that he wished he had taken.  “There is one common theme though.  The best images are taken closer to the subject. Even if you use a long telephoto lens a small bird is still a small bird and you can’t fill the frame even with a 1,000mm lens.”

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Les’ hints for success

  1. Know your birds
    You’ll be better able to predict where they might go and set yourself up in the right place.
    After watching them for a while, you’ll also be better able to able to follow them at the right distance.
  2. Know your camera
    Play with it until you know it well. You don’t want to be thinking about how to use it when you have only a fraction of a second in which to get your shot.
  3. Watch the quality of the light
    You may want to move around your subject to find the best angle for the light. Add flash at -1.7 stops if needed. Watch for any reaction.
  4. Choose a suitable camera height
    Being level with the bird’s eye often makes for the most engaging picture.
  5. Try to capture a clear catch light
    It adds a great deal of vitality to the image.
  6. Use a shutter speed that suits the action
  7. Remember to have fun

I’d like to thank Les for taking the time to share his remarkable hobby and passion with us.  In the car on the way home he agreed to lead an excursion to the Laratinga Wetlands later in the year.  I will speak to Graham and finalise details later.  I can personally say it is worth going out into the field with Les.

James Allan

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