Tuesday, 3 September 2019

My Photoshop Elements Book Finally Released

Here's a link to my new book Mastering Adobe Photoshop Elements, jwhich has just been released. You can buy a print (paper) version (which also comes with a downloadable with the digital version) for $65, or just buy the digital version, from $15 (Note, these prices depend on what discount the publisher,  Packt Publishing, is currently offering).

My book is also available through Amazon, here.

Monday, 26 August 2019

Daylight Fill Flash Saves the Day

Auburn Botanical Gardens - cherry blossom festival!
Guest speaker Costa Georgiadis, host of the ABC's Gardening Australia program, chatting with one of the officials at the opening ceremony.
These two examples demonstrate how important fill flash can be when shooting in bright, contrasty light. The problem is both the contrast and the brightness level. At ISO 100 the exposure on a day like this is going to be about 1/125s @ f16 (that's the Sunny 16 Rule). But at that tiny aperture, the speedlight has to work super-hard to produce enough illumination to work. However, by setting the Speedlite to fire in its High Speed Mode, syncronisation can effectively work at any shutter speed (if it's not in this mode, normal syncronisation stops at 1/250s). The benefit is a significantly faster shutter speed (1/1000s), no camera shake, plus the wider aperture (f5.6) means the Speedlite doesn't have to work so hard so recharges significantly faster.
Canon EOS5D MkIII, 24-105mm lens, Canon Speedlite EX580, 1/1000s @ f5.6, ISO400)
A lone bee going nuts over the cherry blossom...
Camelia flower given the JixiPix plug-in effect
Pieris Japonica or Lily of the Valley shrub.
Cherry blossom close up given the grunge, faded look using a combination of JixiPix Grungetastic plug-in and layers in Photoshop Elements...

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Sydney's Living Museums: Rouse Hill Farm

Rouse Hill farm is a property out west - funnily enough in Rouse Hill, a suburb of Sydney I had never been to before.

This is what Sydney Living Museums has to say about the property: "This house and farm have been owned by six generations of one family. Each generation has added another layer of belongings, improvements and memories, and today, every object and addition, every tear, stain and repair has a story to tell. With its grand stables and prize horses, orchards and elegant summerhouse, Rouse Hill House was once the social hub of the area. And although the estate was later subdivided as the family fortunes waned, the house and its stories still draw people to its door. Today Rouse Hill House & Farm also features the restored 1888 Rouse Hill schoolhouse, a section of the original Windsor Road turnpike proclaimed by Governor Macquarie in 1813, and the site of the doomed 1804 ‘Vinegar Hill’ convict rebellion." This is quite an impressive property - it's big with multiple outhouses, garden sheds, employees cottages, stables, schoolhouse and more. There's plenty of parking, the information centre is good value, as is the shop!

View of the front part of the farmhouse from the orchard.
Pic by Natalie Hitchens
The inside of the house is crammed with stuff!
Pic by Natalie Hitchens
Super Snipe detail
Pic by Natalie Hitchens
The summer house...
Pic by Natalie Hitchens
An old typewriter abandoned in one of Rouse Hill's outhouses
Pic by Natalie Hitchens
As with many farm properties, the grounds have the wrecks of several cars, including this massive Humber Super Snipe (produced in the UK from 1938), a testament to solid engineering. I suspect someone with a lot of time on their hands could renovate this one...
Pic by Natalie Hitchens
An arbour along the side of the bathhouse
Pic by Natalie Hitchens
This is a shot of the back of the main house with newer additions to the left and right, and a covered central courtyard.
Pic by Natalie Hitchens
Door handle details
Pic by Natalie Hitchens
View along the verandah at the side of the house
Pic by Natalie Hitchens
Another view of the Humber Super Snipe
Pic by Natalie Hitchens
Humber Super Snipe
Pic by Natalie Hitchens
Grapevine growing along the verandah of an employee's cottage.
Pic by Natalie Hitchens
Rusted timber saw and an old typewriter in one of the properties' abandoned sheds
All are HDR shots, processed in Aurora HDR 2019
Interior shot of the main drawing room.
The staff in the information centre warned us that this house does have a lot of stuff in it. They weren't wrong - every room is packed with masses of furniture, brac-a-brac, objets d'art, paintings, crockery. As you can see here, all the shutters are mostly closed and the interior illumination is minimal so I had to shoot at extremely high ISO (3200 here).
The dining room at Rouse Hill
Again this is a three-frame HDR shot like most of the images in this blog - because the contrast between inside and outside is so extreme.
HDR processed image of a rusty old ammo box in an outer shed...
The gardener's old potting shed - which contains no pots or tools...

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Sydney's Living Museums: Meroogal, Nowra

"Handed down through four generations of women from one local family, Meroogal tells a multitude of stories about the ‘Roogal’ women and the south-coast community in which they lived".
It's an easy two-hour drive south of Sydney and provides an interesting record of life as it was in Nowra, around 1885...

The drawing roomThis is the official room in which non-family guests were 'received. What's amazing about this, and many of the other properties managed by Sydney Living Museums, is that the house is packed with original furniture, original bric-a-brac and countless mementos either passed down thru the generations or donated by members of the family to the house. This gives the visitor a really good idea of what life around 1885 might have been like.
Because the house is both small and shaded - by a beautiful jacaranda on the street and by curtains and blinds inside, you really have to select a high ISO in order to achieve a good hand holding shutter speed. All the shots here were created from hand-held bracketed exposures and post-processed using Aurora HDR PRO 2019.

The laundry - pretty much untouched for decades apart from an electric washing machine left from the sixties (I think)...
One of the upstairs bedrooms - full of furniture!
Tryptich of features seen at Meroogal House, Nowra
The old water pump (still works!), drawing room and an old phone on its little seat!

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Sydney's Living Museums: Elizabeth Bay House

The interior view we all remember from a visit to Elizabeth Bay House. If you haven't been, it's only $12. The oval entrance hall and landing leading to the upper levels is spectacular and really demands the use of a super-wide angle lens which I didn't have on the day. All we took on this visit were 24-105mm lenses, which was OK, but next time I shall take an even wider angle lens (14mm fisheye) to capture more of its architectural glory.
(HDR pic by Natalie Hitchens).
Victorians liked to keep out of the bright light and sunshine which is why the windows in this room, and throughout Vaucluse House, are so heavily shaded with shutters, curtains and drapes.
(HDR pic by Natalie Hitchens).
Copper-bottomed pans like these hanging in the kitchens might be trendy today but back then it would have been a full time job to just keep them clean.
No dishwashers, detergents or scourers, just a lot of staff!
A wide open aperture (f4) was used to highlight the base of the shiniest pan in the upper foreground while effectively softening the rest of the clutter in the distance...
Another high dynamic range shot (i.e. three bracketed frames put together using Aurora HDR Pro 2019) taken in one of the reception rooms at the front of the house.
A different take on the breakfast room scene (another one is at the top of the post) using the same HDR shooting and post-processing technique. Doing this allows you to record more of the exterior tone without losing any of the far darker details in the interior. You really need a tripod to get this to work perfectly (to prevent movement (and therefore 'ghosting') between each shot but since using one here is strictly off-limits, I had to make do with leaning onto the door frame to gain a bit of stability - this I think gives between one and maybe two additional stops of sharpness (i.e. though the exposure might be 1/4s, it looks as though it was 1/15s or faster).
Another view of the staircase landing and cupola, looking more or less directly upwards using my Canon EF 24-105mm L lens, while trying to be as symmetrical as possible (with a little help in post-production).
Down in the basement of Elizabeth Bay House.
The basement covers a wide area under the main building and would have been a perfect place for storing food in the heat of the summer.
Again this is a three-frame HDR exposure (in Aperture Priority Mode), very necessary to capture some of the details in the very bright stairwell leading up to the ground level as well as the darkness in the basement itself.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Sydney's Living Museums: Rose Seidler House

Designed and built by architect Harry Seidler for his mum, Rose Seidler, in 1950, Rose Seidler House today stands as a monument mid 20th-century modern domestic architecture in Australia and is now owned by Sydney's Living Museums. It's not big, it's not as cluttered as many of the other houses managed by Sydney Living Museums and it only takes 15-20 mins to get round but it's so iconic, its bush setting and classic lines I think make this a must-see house...

The long pedestrian ramp running up to the outside patio is a signature feature of Rose Seidler House. I believe this originally led to the swimming pool, now filled in.
The patio features a renovated modernist mural that's eye-catching and nicely offset with the classic sun chairs

Under the slab you'll find a small studio (at left) and at right a clear view to the bush that surrounds the property. Seidler built two other houses for family members in the same location (just visible through the trees) which are not open to the public.

Rose Seidler House
The kitchen is fantastic - a bit small perhaps by current trends, but its coloured sliding glass-fronted cabinets and stainless steel bench tops are surprisingly contemporary today.
Classic sitting room design - glass-fronted cabinets, incorporating a stereogram, loud colours combined with a design simplicity that's a signature of this property.
What I also really appreciate about all of the Sydney Living Museum properties we visited in June is the dedication that its volunteers and guides bring to the experience. Their local knowledge brings an added dimension to the experience for the visitor.
(All images by Natalie Hitchens).

Monday, 22 July 2019

Sydney's Living Museums: Vaucluse House

Sydney's Living Museums encompasses 12 properties, most of which are in Sydney, with a couple further afield. A single entrance costs $12 which is great value but you can also buy a pass to visit all the properties for just $25 - the pass lasts for a month. It's terrific value if you have a few weekends free. Most of the images here have been processed with the help of Aurora HDR software.This is the wonderful drawing room at Vaucluse House in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs.

Beautifully restored bedroom at Vaucluse House

Close up details, Vaucluse House

The wine cellar, Vaucluse House
(Repro) Maids smocks
Vaucluse House

Pic by Natalie Hitchens

Covered walkway between kitchen and rest of the house, Vaucluse
Pic by Natalie Hitchens
Letter and board games
Pic by Natalie Hitchens
Pic by Natalie Hitchens

Corner of the verandah
Pic by Natalie Hitchens
Original music score, Vaucluse House
Pic by Natalie Hitchens