Friday, 17 December 2010

A Few More From the Tram Sheds

I forgot to add my own images to the day's shoot down at the tram sheds - Lucie kindly reminded me to post some so here they are. All HDR, all OK but, with hindsight, could be better with a more obvious focal point. Problem with shooting in a location like this is that there's almost too much to adsorb on one glance - there needs to be a distinct front. middle and back in the shot. Having almost everything carpeted with colourful graffiti, surprisingly, does not help! Close ups work better - which is why I think Glyn's sneaker shot works so nicely - point of focus. As does Mike's 'Urban Decay' shot, 'toilet' from Lucie, Ian's machine room HDR, and Matt's monochrome image, as examples (black-and-white helps focus the mind on the textures without having to deal with a visual explosion of colour).
I've also added a video with some comments on the thought processes I went through when post-processing some of these shots FYI.


'Still Life', Dunlop factory. Initially I really liked this image but made the mistake of not choosing the correct f-stop - so the spray can in the foreground came out a bit unsharp. It was quite distracting in the assembled HDR so it had to be removed! I post-processed this Photomatix Pro HDR frame using Freaky Detail - thanks to Mike for the directions on how that's done (see end of post), works a treat. Added two vignettes to finish it off.
Close-up using a 15mm fisheye. Had to crop some of the left-hand side because of excess edge softness (should use a smaller f-stop next time!). Finished off with a double vignette (small one with 30px Feather, larger one using 150px Feather). Freaky Detail FX.
Glebe Tram shed, Canon 15mm EF lens. Photomatix Pro post-processed using Mike's Freaky Detail again - the effect was really unnecessary here because there was so much in the shot anyway. I lightened the centre pole a bit (with the Dodge brush) to try to add a bit more of a 3D effect. It really needs a figure in the frame. Next time maybe. I added the FD effect anyway - it really cranked up the details along the right-hand side of the frame.
Probably my favourite. Again the Canon 15mm EF lens. On reflection I could have physically got lower in the carriage but I rather liked the symmetry this angle created anyway (but only after I had transformed some of the optical distortion out of the frame).
A final shot that has had the foreground details selected then enhanced, sharpened and the saturation increased to bring it more to the front (visually). Background was subsequently desaturated and softened a little to push the point home.

What makes a good shot? A common enough question. Here are the thought processes I go through between pressing the shutter and physically post-procesing the shot...

Technique: Adding a double vignette
A vignette is a darkened edge to a picture.
1: Open the image
2: Choose the rectangular marquee tool (a marquee is a fancy word for a closed line or box, usually drawn around the subject), set the Feathering (off the Options Palette top of the screen) to about 150px and draw a rectangular marquee about 1.5cms inside the edge of the shot (on a 21Mp image). Release the mouse and you'll see the rectilinear shape change to more of a 'geometric oval'. Invert the selection (Ctrl + SHIFT + I) so that it fits round the edge of the frame and use the Paint Bucket tool to dump about 30% black into the edge. If this is not dark enough, click a second time to darken it further.
3: Deslect that selection and make another marquee, but with the Feather value set to around 25px (for a harder edge). Invert it and add a dollop of black set to 50% or more to add a hard black edge to the softer wider black vignette.

Technique: Adding Massive Detail into a Shot
Here's the Freaky Detail recipe off Calvin Hollywood's Blog http://www.calvinhollywood-blog.com/
Do all the basic tone adjustments first, then:
1: Duplicate the layer, (Ctrl/Cmd J)
2:  Adjust the blending mode to Vivid Light.
3: Invert the layer (Cmd I)
4: Now make a sharpening adjustment using the Surface Blur filter (Filter>Blur>Surface Blur)
5: Adjust the surface blur's Radius and Threshold sliders to about 40%, or to taste, keeping halos to a minimum.
6: Press SHIFT + Alt+ Cmd/Ctrl+E. This flattens everything into one layer, as a copy.
7: Delete 'Layer 1'
8: Set the Blend Mode to 'Overlay'.
9: Finally flatten the layers and adjust contrast and shadows (with the Shadows/Highlights tool.
10: Set layer opacity to about 40% to reduce the effect.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

New Japan Videos

Here are two more links for videos made on my recent trip to Japan. As you'll immediately realise, I used the same shukahatchi flute piece for both - I find this incredibly haunting and, when you can't find any other suitable music for a soundtrack, this is idea as it suits many moods. Making videos like this makes me really appreciate what a good job music composers can do when working with film!
Both were put together using Adobe Premier Elements - a very sophisticated editing program considering it only costs $50 or so.



Video clips taken on our trip to the Buddhist retreat of Koyasan, 70km out of Osaka, Japan.


Fun shooting the rapids (in a boat and on video) from Kameoka to Areshiyama in Western Kyoto.

Friday, 10 December 2010

The F8 Group go Strobist in the Tram Sheds

Location 01: Here's the 'base' shot taken in the compressor room at the Dunlop factory in Alexandria. Nothing added, just a straight shot. We were looking for good places to place the additional speedlights: our problem was that because it's an infra-red trigger system we were forced to hold the (slave) flash heads in direct line of sight with the 'master' speedlight to get proper synchronisation. To get round this limiting factor we shot at f8 with a shutter speed of 3.2secs, slow enough for five of us to manually trigger the speedlights.
The result, after a number of attempts, produced a significantly better-looking and more dynamic shot.
Location 02: Dunlop factory floor.  A pretty dead-looking subject that needed additional lighting. Two 'lucky' volunteers sat on the floor behind the wreck holding speedlights in view of the 'master' speedlight mounted on the tripod. Another speedlight was fired from extreme left, plus a bit from a fourth on the right-hand side of the car.
Location 03: Glebe tram sheds. The light was OK in the shed itself, but completely dead inside each tramcar.
Robin trying to work out how a speedlight really works. Lucie politely not saying anything...
Finished result: three speedlights inside and one fired from above right
Matthew Baker: monochrome HDR
Matthew Baker: monochrome HDR
'Urban Decay' by Mike Clements

Mike Clements: two trams post-processed using a process called Freaky Detail. 
Click on the image and you'll see why...
Mike Clements:
Perfect reflection: Mike Clements
Tram windows by Lucie Loane
Semi-monochrome HDR from Lucie Loane
Dunlop factory toilet by Lucie Loane
Crushed car wreck from Lucie Loane
HDR male torso from Glyn Patrick
Different view on the same scene - rear shelf sneakers, from Glyn
Inside the tram. Site is soon to be developed for housing. HDR from Ian Caldwell.
Close-up tram shed graffiti: Graham Robinson
Model shoot in the tram sheds captured by Graham Robinson
Close-up tram shed graffiti: Graham Robinson
Painterly HDR from Ian Caldwell
Inside the Dunlop factory. Ian Caldwell. Ian's image looks more like a blow-up model than a real machine room - a great HDR effect.

General shot of Glebe tram sheds from Anne McIntosh - like many HDR shots, you really have to see this BIG to get all the tonal nuances. Nice work Anne.
Another HDR corker from Anne
I know someone who got Nik SIlver Efex for Christmas! Really 'out there' HDR from Anne again. I think most of these HDR shots would look amazing printed poster size.



Movie clips of the day - shot in Glebe tram sheds and the old Dunlop factory in Alexandria (Sydney) and featuring Ian, Matthew, Anne, Glyn, Lucie, Graham, Robin - and Mike on 'stunts'

Friday, 3 December 2010

Weird Japan Video

It's not that I think Japan has a weird culture - if you look close enough at most cultures you'll find things that appear odd, bizarre or just plain wacky. Japan however, appears to have more than its fair share of oddities. At least to my eyes. Be they advertising materials, signs, bizarre types of food (i.e. 'fugu') or just a different 'presentation' of things I consider 'normal', there's lots of visual interest in 'modern Japan' to keep any photography busy for years.
I have never been a big fan of digital camera movie modes because, till HD, the resolution supplied was generally rubbish, plus you had to deal with the resulting video files which seemed like a mammoth task that probably was not worth the effort. In many ways I still need to be convinced, but these movie clips, all 45 of them, were automatically analysed, assembled and edited using Premiere Element's instantmovie function - you have no say about the clip order (unless it's set by date or previously-made Tags), or the sound track or the type of editing, but the results are great fun and I think, very effective. Here I used the cartoon format. 
All clips were shot with a Canon EOS 5D MkII and a Canon Powershot SX30IS and edited using Adobe Premiere Elements...

This is a collection of clips shot on our CCE photo trip to Japan, 2010. Cameras used: Canon EOS 5D MkII and Powershot SX30IS

TIPS for shooting movies with a DSLR:

1. Avoid moving the camera while shooting
2. Always use the best quality HD setting (resolution)
3. Use a tripod whenever you can
4. Play with different focus settings
5. Experiment with different apertures and ISO settings to get a variety of different visual effects for each subject
6. If a tripod is no good, use a monopod to add stability to the shooting process. 
7. Use a bunch of shorter clips rather than one long clip...

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Takayama and Shirakawa-go

Sake shop, Takayama. HDR processed using Photomatix
If you want something slightly different on a trip to Japan a good place to visit is Takayama and neighboring village of Shirakawa-go, in the Japanese Alps. 
Takayama is popular because it has a several very old (read: wooden houses) neighbourhoods that have changed little over the years - for the tourist this amounts to a day or two sauntering up and down the streets in the old part of the town. 
Sake shop, Takayama. HDR processed using Photomatix
Most of the houses are wooden, single-story buildings housing tourist shops, caf├ęs, and sake breweries. I'm not sure if the alcohol is actually brewed on the premises but you can certainly visit these establishments and try out, for free, some of their products. Obviously at some point in tasting preamble there's a requirement to buy a drink but, at 200yen for a square wooden cup of best sake, you can't complain. Or at least, after finishing the drink, you might forget to complain..
View across a carp pond into the Alps beyond. It is such an idyllic rural scene it's hard to image it is still in Japan. HDR Canon EOS 5D MkII.
In a completely different vein to the sake businesses in old Takayama, Shirakawa-go, just an hour's bus drive into the mountains, is one of the most memorable spots you can visit in Japan. Today it stands as a UNESCO world heritage site because of its unique thatched farm houses huddled together in the two communities of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, in the Japanese Alps. The style is described as gasso-ziguri and is certainly a symbol of rural Japan. Even better, you can stay in one of these places as a guest. Most have five or six tatami mat rooms for rent, with shared bathroom facilities. You get to eat together in a communal dining room that serves (predominantly) vegetarian food grown in the mountains around. The food is delicious and the visit highly memorable. The village is crisscrossed with small streams and fish ponds so, once the tourists have left on their buses around four o'clock each evening, you pretty much have the place to yourself - and the residents of course.

Meeting house in the Shirakawa-go museum. HDR, Canon EOS 5D MkII


Autumn comes early here because of the climate and its altitude.

Another place worth visiting is the (outside) cultural museum which includes a number of these steeply-angled thatched houses that have been preserved and relocated in a corner of the valley. This is a great idea because you not only get a good feeling of how it was to live in one of these communities years ago, but you can get great shots without being hampered by cars, bikes or telephone lines.

A bend in the river. Visitors have to cross a suspension bridge spanning this river to get into the village. It is surprisingly sharp considering the movement in the (concrete) bridge!


Sunday, 21 November 2010

A-Bomb Dome, Hiroshima


This is one of the most interesting historical places in Japan. Partly because of its unfortunate recent history, but also because Hiroshima, completely rebuilt since 1945, is a very pleasantly laid out city split into several leafy sections by the many rivers that flow through the suburbs to its ports.
Most tourists come to the city to view the Ground Zero site, the Peace Museum, and the A-Bomb dome, now a symbolic reminder to the rest of the world of what happened here in August 1945.
A significant global peace movement has subsequently sprung up around Japan, and the world, to try to prevent governments developing the spread of nuclear weapons. 

I have visited Hiroshima twice now and still experience mixed emotions when I see pictures of world leaders visiting the Peace Center - the very people who  spout platitudes to 'peace', while continuing to develop weapons and derisive public policies in their own countries.
Call me a cynic but it's these people who are the root cause. You can almost smell the hypocrisy emanating from the recorded images of smiling faces. Till this visit I'd shot everything in glorious technicolor but now, on this most recent trip I tried shooting in black-and-white, and even made an HDR composite (top) which I think works effectively.
Converting to BW is a technique worth trying just as an alternative to colour. Sometimes it works, sometimes not, but you have to do it first before you can decide.
In this case black-and-white worked better than my color version because I could lend greater emphasis to the clouds than in the colour version.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Latest Student Slideshow

Another great slide night was held recently in a Kyoto hotel. Submissions were initially accepted under the banner of 'architecture', but when it was clear that a couple of the students might not be able to find suitable entries, it was widened to become a 'general subject' slideshow. Clearly the submissions for this third slide show were considerably 'tighter' and more concise than those seen on previous critique nights. Well done everyone and I look forward to the last critique night to be help in Koyasan, in the mountains, near Osaka...

Mary Barnes

Mary Barnes


Mary Barnes
Norma Barne

Norma Barne

Norma Barne

Norma Barne


John Clark

John Clark

John Clark

Carol Clark

Carol Clark

Carol Clark

Leo Gasparet

Leo Gasparet


Leo Gasparet

Leo Gasparet

Leo Gasparet

Sylvia Prescott

Sylvia Prescott

Sylvia Prescott

Sylvia Prescott
Graham Bass

Graham Bass


Graham Bass