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Blue Monday – Reasons to be cheerful in Sheffield

In Uncategorized on January 23, 2012 by Admin Tagged: , , , , , , ,

This January is the first time I heard the term “Blue Monday” attached to the third Monday in January, “officially” the most depressing day of the year. Apparently, the cold weather, short days and post-Christmas come-down combine to make January particularly depressing. Not for me. I had a fantastic day. Inspired by the beautifully clear and frosty sub-zero temperatures, on Monday 16th January 2012 I decided to walk the entire route of the Sheffield Round Walk. I live close to Meersbrook Park (above), which is on the route, and am lucky that the 14 mile circular route brings me back home.

Sheffield Round Walk connects several parks, green spaces and woodlands in the southern part of the city, and takes you all the way out to the edge of the Peak District at Ringinglow. It’s a full day’s walk and it’s best to do it on a long Spring or Summer day, rather than in the middle of January, so that you can stop a bit more than I did. Sheffield is widely known for being built on seven hills (like Rome), and as England’s greenest city. It is also famous for the highest stay-on rate for university students moving here to study, and you can see why.

I’ve done the Round Walk many times before but never in such amazing weather conditions. Here are a few high dynamic range (HDR) photos of my walk. There are more photos of Sheffield and many other places on my Flickr account.

There are maps of the Sheffield Round Walk route on the official website, and a guide book can be ordered from there too.
sheffieldroundwalk.co.uk

In no particular order, here are just a few of my other favourite things about Sheffield.

Sheffield Live! 93.2 FM community radio station – number 1 slot on my car radio.
sheffieldlive.org

Sheffield Contemporary Art Forum – an umbrella organisation promoting the fine art scene in Sheffield, which has the largest number of artist’s studios outside London.
artsheffield.org

Peak District National Park – Britain’s first National Park. Over 500 square miles of moorland, hills, woodland and dales.
peakdistrict.gov.uk

Showroom Cinema – the second largest independent cinema in the country and one of the few cinemas still showing both digital and film formats.
showroomworkstation.org.uk

Sheffield Theatres – the largest theatre complex outside London, including The Crucible, one of the world’s finest thrust stages.
sheffieldtheatres.co.uk

Tramlines Free Music Festival – winner of the Best UK Metropolitan Festival at the UK Festival Awards 2011.
tramlines.org.uk

Stay frosty.

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Articles

No such thing as an authentic photograph

In Uncategorized on January 9, 2012 by Admin Tagged: , , , , , ,

“For a creative writer possession of the “truth” is less important than emotional sincerity.” George Orwell (1903 – 1950)

I grew up in a world where professional photography was a distant and unattainable world. Nowadays everyone has a camera. Everyone. And taking pictures has become as much a part of our daily lives as eating our meals and, in my case, sometimes simultaneously.

I was first drawn to high dynamic range (HDR) imaging in 2008 after seeing very striking images online. My own approach is to make authentic looking photographs, that capture more of the detail and colour depth that is seen by the human eye, rather than the limited range represented by “normal” photography.

I always say “there is no such thing as an authentic photograph”, and when I say it I think of the iconic photograph by Yevgeny Khaldei (1917 – 1997), of a Russian soldier raising the Soviet flag on the Reichstag after the invasion of Berlin during the Second World War. The high-contrast black and white photograph has become a benchmark of authenticity, but only because it has been made universally familiar by newspapers. However, neither a still, nor a moving image can ever be more than an impression of the scene.

The original photograph (above), the added smoke (top right) and the final manipulated composite (bottom right).

Without going into too much detail, current information claims that the photograph was manipulated to remove the extra wristwatches (obviously looted) from the Heroes of the Soviet Union, and to add more smoke in the background, making a more dramatic composition. Whatever the manipulation, there is no doubting the veracity, or truthfulness, or as Orwell would say “emotional sincerity”, of the image. The terrifying fragility of the situation in a blasted city still in a state of war is clearly communicated.

Here are the 3 original shots used to create the image above. It was a very bright, windy day and the composite, adjusted and cropped, tone-compressed HDR (using Photomatix Pro) gives an “authentic impression” of the scene.

My own dilemma is informed by my desire to capture what I see as authentically as possible, but no camera nor combination of techniques will ever capture a “true” image.

Lots more of my photography on Flickr.

Articles

New Year and the tyranny of choice

In Uncategorized on January 1, 2012 by Admin Tagged: , , , , ,

Happy New Year. It’s quite natural to be thinking about new opportunities at the beginning of a new year and if anything, working in digital media, the problem is not what to do, but what not to do. The automation possible with desktop computers and the availability of high quality image capture devices means that it is very easy to shoot lots and lots and lots of material. But the real challenge is in post-production and critical choice.

My own tyranny stems from having too many ideas and too many options. Digital photography does not require me to be selective at the capture stage and I can always see more than one composition. Here are 3 shots of the same subject with different composition. Which one to use and how to crop? I’m still unsure which one I prefer.

My major challenge for 2012 is to clear my backlog. I have dozens of small projects, and a few large ones, that I shot on spec but need to find time to edit. And that does not include all the conceived projects that are fully formed in my mind but not even begun in production.

2011 was a bad year, cursed by technical failures, equipment losses and late payments, and much of my own work has been delayed.

Happy New Year and here’s to a more productive and prosperous 2012.

Articles

Midwinter

In Uncategorized on December 24, 2011 by Admin Tagged: , , , , , ,

Augustus "Gussie" Fink Nottle

When Checkov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark, and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here, among the people of Sheffield, and basking in the warmth of their hearts and arts, I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.

From Sheffield, it’s Richard Bolam. So long.

Articles

There and back again: In-car timelapse experiments with CHDK

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2011 by Admin Tagged: , , , , , ,

Rain, plane and automobiles.

Here are a couple of timelapse video edits made from material I shot from in-car cameras, timelapse-enabled with the Canon Hack Development Kit (CHDK). The software is an amazing achievement and I use it regularly, although I only use a small part of its functionality. Installing it can be a bit fiddly and you need to spend some time with it, but I have found it extremely useful shooting timelapse and HDR.

Both videos were shot during car journeys that were at predetermined times so I had to accept the routes and weather conditions. One camera is on a suction mount on the inside of the windscreen on the passenger side. This position means that it is mostly in line-of-sight with the roof pillar and does not obscure the driver’s view. In the first video the other camera was mounted behind the passenger seat’s head rest, looking out of the rear passenger’s window.

Shooting through glass is always problematic, but there are ways of reducing the risks. Internal reflections can be reduced by masking internal features with blackout cloth, and/or mounting the cameras very close to the glass. Also, I use black cardboard masks to stop the camera seeing its own reflection. Cleaning the glass helps too. These two videos are just experimental and exhibit a lot of shooting faults.

I use CHDK on Canon Powershot cameras. I have several A560s and a few other models for various reasons. CHDK requires a different build of the software for each camera model so I mostly use several of the same model so that I can swap memory cards between them.

In unpredictable and and extreme conditions such as this, I mostly set the cameras to Program auto-expose and auto-ISO as it is impractical to change the settings during a shoot. This mostly works, particularly for video, as the movement hides a lot of the shooting faults.

I used the script Ultra Intervalometer and set the interval to 0 so the cameras shot as quickly as possible. This is about once a second for A560s. This depends on exposure time and they shoot slower in low light.

I performed various exhaustion tests on the batteries. I’m working on external battery boxes but running them on the two internal AA rechargeable batteries I get variable results depending on shooting period and interval.

Using fairly new Maplin 2,500 mAh rechargeable NiMH batteries (all numbers are approximate):

0 second interval – 9,000+ shots in about 4 hours.
5 second interval – 5,500+ shots in about 11 hours
10 second interval – 3,200+ shots in about 12 hours
20 second interval – 2,200+ shots in about 14 hours

To extend battery life I switch off the screen and this introduces a small problem that focus-lock is not preserved. This is not usually a problem for distant subjects but can be in some circumstances. Problems with the focus are apparent in the Jean Marc Calvet video, though not a big issue. When I’ve shot HDR timelapse, it is better to use external power so that I can lock exposure and focus in order to get higher quality results.

Canon Hack Development Kit (CHDK)
chdk.wikia.com/wiki/CHDK

The music for both videos is by Jason Shaw.
audionautix.com

Articles

It’s a toilet invasion! – Pixelwitch JaQ’s Latrino Boyz

In Uncategorized on December 10, 2011 by Admin Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Jacqui Bellamy aka Pixelwitch JaQ has a secret obsession with shooting beautiful people in toilet cubicles.

After three series of Latrino Gals, here are some stills and behind-the-scenes video from the first series of Latrino Boyz. The good, the bad and the fabulous from the music, arts and creative scenes around Sheffield and beyond.


There is a 2012 calendar available and the prints will be exhibited at the Rutland Arms, Sheffield, UK from 11th December 2011.
rutlandarmspeople.co.uk

Contact latrinoboyz@gmail.com.

Special thanks go to The Common Room, Sheffield, UK for allowing us to use the ladies.
latrinogals.co.uk
common-room.co.uk

Articles

Through the eye of a duck (this must be the place).

In Uncategorized on December 5, 2011 by Admin Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Here are some examples from my first test of the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 prime lens. I am using it on an EOS 550D digital SLR and so is equivalent to an 80mm lens on a full-frame 35mm equivalent sensor. It’s known to perform well beyond its price range.

If you click on the close-ups, you will see the 1:1 version at actual size. You can clearly see me and the geese reflected in the turkey’s eye. Below is the full captured frame.

All these images are post-processed with Adobe Photoshop, using the Topaz Adjust plug-in to enhance the perception of detail, and also sharpened a little. However, software cannot add detail although it can increase your perception of it. all the detail is in the original shot and there is no substitute for good lenses.

Larry the Llama

These shots were taken at the rare breeds farm at Graves Park, Sheffield, UK. I think the turkey is the best of the shots and the goose the least good, but all very successful for a grey day and a bit of random shooting with a new lens.

Graves Park, Sheffield, UK
gravesparksheffield.info
Canon Camera
Canon.co.uk
Topaz Adjust
topazlabs.com

p.s. None of these animals are ducks.