Saturday, 29 November 2014

Perfect autumnal colours on Miyajima Island









Todaiji temple, Nara

Here are a few snaps I took at Todaiji temple in Nara - this was originally built in 754 and is one of the most significant temples in the country.  I converted the [RAW] images into black-and-white then added a slight tint to give the monochrome more of a lift.


Kalaidoscope fun

Sometimes I just can't help myself - the colour and shapes of Heian Shrine in Kyoto lend themselves beautifully for this kaleidoscope effect - using the same frame over four layers...



Heian Shrine, Kyoto

Heian shrine in Kyoto is famous for its giant torii gate standing over the approach road - but it also has a brilliant garden round the back of the main buildings, complete with tea house and bridge over a lake. Good for autumnal photography although, as you can see here, it's both visually busy and amazingly bright in colour. In fact this is an issue all over Japan in the autumn - the colours, the reds and yellows,  are so intense it's hard to get the balance right.

In these examples I first tried shooting, then processing, HDR images - but that's too hard because the trees were moving and the colours were way off being accurate. A single RAW file produced the best, most accurate colour.


Most of this extensive shrine is painted in this striking vermillion colour making it very distinctive.

Some of the stepping stones seen in the film Lost in translation...


An amazing gnarled tree that looks a bit like a praying mantis


Thursday, 27 November 2014

Shooting in a Crowded Place

Most casual photographers will snap a group shot by, well, snapping off a frame, without any further thought to getting a good result.
Here's a useful technique for making people shots stand out in a crowd.   If you just point and shoot the camera tries to get everything sharp.  This is exaggerated if using a wide-angle lens, so the result is a subject that blends into the background (in this case thousands of commuters heading off to work in Kyoto railway station).

So, if you slow the shutter down (ISO 360, f5.6 @ 1/10s) anything moving past the subject becomes blurred giving a sense of movement.  But you must have something sharp and clear in the image to make it work - your subjects must remain as static as possible.  There was no way I could set up a tripod in such a busy place so had to hand hold as best as I could.  The resulting [sharp] subjects literally jump off the page - compared to the bustling people streaming past in the station

My wonderful Japan group:
Kerrie Murphy, Marietta McGregor, Phil Young, Kerrie Dixon, Tamara Kitson, Denise Tolhhurst, Bob Baker and Sharon Carey

Photoshop Element's Crowd Control: Scene Cleaning in Sagano

One of the problems with shooting images in Japan is the crowds. Here we are in peak autumn colour viewing time and the place is crawling with tourists which, in places like the Sagano bamboo forest, makes it impossible to get a snap without including hundreds of people in the frame. One neat way to minimise the crowds is to use Photoshop Elements' Scene Cleaning feature.
To start you have to remember to shoot more than one frame of the location, preferably using a tripod. The trick is to snap off the same scene as the people move through it - in this example they were walking past on the roadway so I waited till different parts of the road were revealed. Import the lot into Elements then choose the least crowded image as the base shot. Then choose an image that has a space in the road that's different to the base image.  Draw round it using the pencil tool and it automatically selects, feathers and transfers that part of the image to the base image.  In practice you do not need anything like an accurate selection line - just scribble and it copies and pastes a chunk out of the image.  If it copies too much, use the eraser brush to reduce the selection.  In this example I used all four images to get a result that was almost completely free of people. The final image can then be cleaned up using the Clone or Healing brushes to give a fully cleaned result.



Screen grab of Elements' Scene Cleaning feature with four source images. It's a brilliant bit of software - each different source image is colour-coded so you can clearly see what bit comes from which image. Elements is combining a few very complex operations (selecting, feathering, copying and pasting) into a very simple process and it works well.
Sagano bamboo forest, Areshiyama, Kyoto - without the crowds

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Second Japan Photo Tour Slideshow Night

Here's a brief selection from our second photo slideshow held the other night in Mayajimaguchi...


Pic by Denise Tolhurst

Pic by Denise Tolhurst

Pic by Kerrie Murphy

Pic by Kerrie Murphy

Pic by Kerrie Dixon

Pic by Kerrie Dixon

Pic by Marietta McGregor

Pic by Marietta McGregor

Pic by Phil Young

Pic by Phil Young

Pic by Sharon Carey

Pic by Sharon Carey

Pic by Tamara Kitson

Pic by Tamara Kitson