Member presentations

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 😉

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Who wants to be a critic?

Record the date 31-Jan-2013 as an important date in your records.

On that day Blackwood Photographic Club embarked on a new direction that encourages more participation and sharing of photographic ideas. We moved from the mainstream camera club ethos of competition and into (what for us in 2013 is a new idea) actively sharing, encouraging and improving our photographic art as a group, as well as learning from each other and not just receiving a  judges opinion.

Interestingly, the peer review/critique session is not a new phenomenon. Many educational institutions have done the same thing for decades (if not centuries) – the arts & literature need feedback to develop.  The early days of our club embraced this method of learning, but it got lost along the way. Well, I think we’ve found it!

The night began with another significant event – the raising of the new projector screen!

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Matt, Ashley & I spent a bit of time planning how best to mount the new screen – and after a bit of brainstorming, came up with the solution of clamping the screen to the ballet rail and raising the screen up. We did a test run on the Australia Day long weekend, and with a little paint, some more brainstorming, a ladder, some hand tools and a drill the new screen was ready. This method overcomes the problem of the mass of the screen, and therefore reduces the risk to the people raising it as well. We’ve employed the old widowmaker rods for raising it, but they’ll soon be replaced with something even better.

The big advantage of this screen is that we can now project our images at full 4:3 (just like your camera) on a larger, brighter screen. We must acknowledge the support of the SAPF in partially funding the new screen – which replaces our 30 year old screen.

The night was also significant for the debut of the new print stand. Eric built a new one just before the end of last year which is more robust, and allows prints to stand in a rail rather than be clipped into place. Even panoramas will now fit. Our sincere thanks to Eric for his efforts.

So on this already auspicious evening, we began our critique session. It was a pretty full house with many club members present & displaying their images, as well as 5 new members (welcome to Lesley, Ren, Grant, Gerry and Ron). We also had a few visitors – Peter & Richard from Edwardstown PC, Rosemary & Roger (2nd time – I remember 😉 ). Richard & I have corresponded about this new direction a few times as well – illustrating that our ideas find a resonance outside the club. We were also pleased to see life member Ruth Palmer attend and lend her support.

Critique using the new print stand too

Critique using the new print stand too

Our inaugural critique night (the modern edition) comprised Matt & Ashley as the review panel, with myself as chairperson, and images (print, slide & digital) from 18 club members. Not bad for a first draft. The initial concept was to have the images displayed in rounds of 1 image (or set) at a time. We thought that up to 3 rounds could be had in the normal meeting time. Each member was allowed up to 1 minute to describe their image, then the panel discussed the image, followed by comments from those present for a total of about 5 minutes. This worked reasonably well, except that the panel and audience ran overtime – repeatedly! That will have to be tightened up!

A few observations about the process I mulled over afterwards:

  • Some members put up images and basically said “What to do you think?”. In retrospect it should be “I was trying to achieve …… by doing …… – have I achieve it or how can I get there?”.
    The critique this type of opening remark received was at times a little soft, but then the introduction by the photographer led to that. So next time you come along please tell us what your trying to do
  • Matt & Ashley tried to be constructive and make helpful observations. They prefaced some remarks with “a judge might say…..”.
    Although this is valuable, particularly for competition, its not the only way to provide feedback, and they tried to avoid the cliches. Well done guys.
  • They also worked hard to give feedback on composition and technique – along with members of the audience such as Arthur (who I think commented on every image), Eric, Helen, Ray, James & Peter (apologies to those I missed).
    Many other members chipped in too – and this is the important part of the night – we all took part.
    I felt all those present were looking and trying to help the photographer improve the image – and not just superficially. This is something we miss after a competition night as the images get whipped down and stored.
  • Everyone stayed polite and constructive – brilliant!
  • Members such as Helen, Heather, Theo & Eric displayed images to help them refine their display and technique. Helen addressed her ongoing screen calibration issue, Heather looked at image resolution, Eric showed us how to photograph drops of water &  Theo addressed the issue of what is the best perspective – in close or out wide? All of this generated some excellent discussion in the process – and many of us – not just the authors – left with new insights.
  • There was a good selection of prints on the night as well – with some valuable discussion on breaking the standard judging rules – the rule of thirds needs to be taken out and buried and sharpness need not dominate our lives!
  • We ran out of time after the first round – hmmmm. Fortunately, we managed to have a 15 minute free for all with the remaining digital images.
    Next time we will have to be a lot stricter on time limits
  • We were all enjoying it so much I didn’t see anyone doze off. Amazing! Some competition nights you can almost here the snoring – none evident on this occasion! 😀

Next time we’ll have another pair of panelists – everyone will get a turn (don’t be shy!). In fact thats another way of improving your art – by being made to give feedback to someone else.

So there you have it – the first installment of BPC Peer review. We’ll refine things as we go along. If you’ve got any ideas or observations I haven’t addressed email me or leave a comment on this page. I promise our critique nights will only get better!

Chris 😉


Noarlunga Expo 2012

On the Friday prior to the Noarlunga Photographic Expo.  I spent most of the day try to assist the volunteers set the hall ready for the weekend’s function. My wife had been busy cooking up some treats for sale at the event for those attendees who wished to have a “Cuppa and Cake”. These cakes and cookies along with more treats which other club members had baked, were sold thus raising much needed funds for the club.

Saturday, the first day of the Expo,  started quite well with a steady stream of visitors through the doors. The organising committee were expecting a possible lower attendance on Saturday due other functions being held for the Shimmer Festival and the Crows playing at Football Park. This expectation however proved to be a myth as the public kept entering at a steady rate right up until the closing time of 4 o’clock. Some members of the public were still trying to enter after the doors were closed.

Sunday was also a quite well attended day with lots of interest in the local clubs, all of the BPC programs that I placed on the display were taken and a few people took down notes of our address and meeting times. I dispensed information about our club as well as photographic advice to members of the public interested in the possibility of joining.

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All of the clubs displays were very good with the Hallett Cove year 11 & 12 students being an excellent display.

I found it strange that the stand used by Photographic Wholesalers was not staffed by anyone! At one stage I was asked if I could help some young students who were enquiring about studio flash units and their usage, this was due to me standing adjacent to the PW display whilst talking to Tim Newbury. I tried to assist these young photography students as much as possible.

The Noarlunga CC had their calendars on sale for $10.00 each and I must say they did quite a good trade. A glass display cabinet with some old cameras and photos were on display of which yours truly supplied most of the equipment. There was one old photo of a couple of bicycles which were joined together so that they were ridden side by side with a young baby seated between the riders. The photo was taken about 1923 and later on Sunday afternoon the “baby” came to visit the Expo !! she is now in her mid nineties and quite well. It was a joy to meet her and have a chat.

A raffle was held and drawn at the close of the show on Sunday and the number of people through the doors over the weekend was in excess of 500 this was confirmed as the public were issued with a ticket on entry (although some may have sneaked in without accepting ticket) so as to be able to verify the attendance numbers.

All in all I felt it was a good show and thanks must go to the Noarlunga CC for the fine job they do each year in organising this event.
It was also pleasing to see some of Blackwood Photographic Club members putting in an appearance at the Expo.

Prints displayed at the Expo by BPC will be returned at the next meeting. Thanks to all who participated.

Eric Budworth


Photography – my Passion (10-May-2012)

The theme for tonight was a presentation by 3 club members about their photographic passion. When planning the evening we decide to encompass different areas of photography – slides, image manipulation and something we rarely see – underwater photography. We also had a few visitors this evening – Trevor from Noarlunga Club, Peter on his second visit, and Audrey – acting as Arthur’s driver.

Thankfully (thankyou Audrey), our slide expert Arthur Farmer was able to attend, despite his difficulty with travel at the moment  – and it was worth the effort.

As Arthur pointed out, slides have a two of useful advantages – they have longevity and are quite easy to store.

In his work, he now uses Velvia and also creates his amazing black & white slides with normal black & white film, then sends it to the US for processing into a slide. We were told about a passion for studying decay (odd for a surgeon), which produces some fascinating composition which lends itself to both colour and B&W. He has found that simple structures & textures lead the eye. Also utilising low light (early and late in the day) and getting in close to create a composition means that its not just a photograph of the subject – an important point.

In many respects, this philosophy is inspired by the great artists such as Heysen and Titian, who used out of focus areas to draw the eye to the focus of the image. Whatever the inspiration, we can always be assured that Arthur will produce images that make us think!

Our next speaker was Eric Budworth who told us how, as a film spooler in London, he was bitten by the bug – although he was also a train spotter!

In 1958 he bought his first camera at the Brussells World Fair. Then in Spain, he bought a Voigtlander camera with a 50mm f2.8 lens. He later sold it, but got it back when the purchaser said it didn’t work – it just needed some film.

Eric also entered the digital world early, with a Nikon D1 – a 2.7Mpixel camera that produces some great images. Though it was a bit large, it had the advantage of a 1/6000s shutter speed and access to great glass. He still uses a Nikon digital, but points out that he stores his old slides digitally by photographing them – just need a bellows and a slide holder.

Photographically, Eric like to play around – no special subject for him – although he does like still life. He enjoys the way digital lets him manipulate things, and subscribes to the UK magazine “Digital Photography” from which he gets many ideas and tries them out. The advantage of this magazine he finds is the clear step by step explanations provided.

Eric is inspired by things around him as well, getting ideas from the magazines and trying them out. He gave many examples of how he took the images displayed in the video at above, including bolting a camera and flash in his car whilst driving, how he created the image of the jigsaw using a template and perspective translation tool in photoshop, and the penwash of the two prints – turning a fairly uninspiring image into something special as I’m sure you’ll agree.

The final set of images are a template Eric obtained to create calendars to share with his friends overseas – a pretty impressive set of images.

Personally, I find Eric produces many great images that challenge us (and the judges) – and coupled with his ever present wit is an inspiration to try new things.

The final speaker for the evening was Richard Wormald. Unknown to many of us, Richard is both a keen photographer and a diver. He has coupled these two hobbies into one – although he admits his diving is less freqent than it used to be. He even spent time as a diving instructor with the mottono conditions were too bad! . His inspiration for diving came from the TV program Sea Hunt (does that show his age?) – you can see the similarity between Richard and Lloyd Bridges can’t you? By the way, I had to rope him into this talk at short notice, but Richard dutifully scanned many of his slides in and shared them with us – apparently reviving many good memories (as his wife Jenny told me!)

So onto Richard’s presentation which firstly described some of the difficulties in underwater photography including refraction, object magnification (making focusing even harder), particle scatter (clouding the image), colour absorption (ever notice that blue cast? Red has been lost!) making it necessary to use a high power flash, and importantly that fact that you can’t change lenses – so is going to be a macro day or not?

Still, he obviously overcame a lot of those issues with some superb images of corals, filter feeding animals, nudi banks, anenomes, clown fish (Nemo!), feather stars and basket stars. Wow! Amazing creatures and so colourful and textured! Richard told us stories of trips to the Great Barrier Reef – 70km off shore and swimming with the risks of white tip sharks (not aggressive in the area they went to but they are elsewhere), sea snakes (like the Olive snake – super venomous – but with short fangs thankfully), using the anchor line to get back as divers tire, infection from the warm humid environment (don’t cut yourself on the coral). He also shared the story of Humphrey – the Groper, and that image of the giant clam they staged (check out the slides above).

We also heard stories of cave diving, including the need for dry suits (it’s mighty cold down there), safety lines (visibility is minimal if you stir up the silt – 120 feet is usually the maximum distance), and the categories of cave. Not to mention more snakes, and the tiny spaces divers squeezed through – pushing air tanks ahead of them.

But the take home memory here was Richard descending into a hole on a ladder into a huge cave! Many of the cave images were stunning – and I’m glad Richard shared them with us along with those great images of the Great Barrier reef dive.

So a fascinating night – seeing what fires the passions of some of the clubs photographers. Many thanks to all three of you for sharing your work – and we look forward to seeing some more!

Chris 😉