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I made the front cover

2 Oct

A few months ago I put a call out on Twitter for ideas. I’d been asked to take photos for the local Rugby Club’s calendar.

In the end the organisers had a pretty good idea of what they wanted and it involved a lot of indoor photography. Not confident that I could do them justice, even with a loan of a directional flash, I had to pass on the job and advised them to get a photographer with some decent lighting kit.

They did, but came back to me in September and asked if I could do a couple of outdoor shots, one for the cover and a Christmas themed one for December.

So I made the cover.

Eeek!

My first printed and sold for money work.

Not money for me of course – money for the club.

You’d be surprised how little I.. ahem.. saw on this shoot.

No really.

I was all like “frame it”, and “expose it right first time cos these guys are not going to be happy if I ask them for a re-run!”

Even when they all mucked in and turned the score board round so it wasn’t in direct sunlight, I was metering and faffing around with the settings on my camera.

It was all very decorous.

IT WAS!

And they were very good sports.

Or is the word “exhibitionists”?

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Want to come out to play?

5 Sep

Wanna come on a photowalk round Edinburgh on Saturday 9th October?

What’s a Photowalk you ask?

Well you sort of walk, and take photos.

That’s it really.

No matter what kind of camera you have, be it a phone, or an all singing all dancing dSLR or anything in between… walking about taking photos is kinda fun.

Especially in Edinburgh.

A rough itinerary…

  • 14:00 Meetup outside Waverley Station
  • 14:00-16:00 Walk and take photos! I will plan a route to include the Grassmarket, Greyfriars Cemetery, The Royal Mile and time permitting, Princess Street Gardens. I am also working on getting permission from some places with roofs as a wet weather backup.
  • 16:00-17:00 Make our way to Calton Hill, weather permitting, for some cityscapes in the hour before sunset.
  • 17:00-hometime Eat, drink and make merry at a venue to be decided.

Given the route and the necessity for popping into the nearest hostelry at the slightest drop of rain this event won’t be suitable for children.

I have a few participants already lined up but the more the merrier I always say, hence this blog plug.

You can either email me or leave me a comment with your email address so I can add you to the list of attendees and keep you up to date with arrangements.

And… if you want to skip the walking bit and just come for the food and drink bit that will be tickety-boo too.

I look forward to meeting new friends, taking some fab fotees and, with permission, sharing them to showcase our pretty darn beautiful capital city.

And then she was blonde

2 Sep

(think I liked it black – there’s no telling kids!)

Who says?

26 Aug

I have too much time on my hands?

Who?

How to give photos a free shot of "oomph" (come GIMP with me!)

23 Aug

I’m all in favour of a little helping hand when it comes to digital photo making. Sometimes you find a so-so photo that has the potential to be fab.. if only it weren’t so flat.

I use a combination of Lightroom and Photoshop CS4 to give my photos a kick up the arse when they need it, but there’s plenty of tools out there that will do the job just as well for free (like totally!). One of my favourites is GIMP.

So what can it do? Well pretty much what Photoshop can to be honest. It handles the most common fixes I use, a bit of colour boost and sharpening. And like Photoshop there are loads of ways to get the same result. When you find one you like you tend to stick with it. Go on, find something dull and washed out and give it a kick (no not you OH – you want to GIMP them then that’s a whole other post).

Something more like this.

Pretty dull huh?

Here’s what GIMP looks like once you have opened a file in it and maximised the window… on the left you have a Toobox which is basically all the thing you can turn your cursor into  and on the right you have some info to help you work with the opened file.

The first thing I usually do is crop my photo – I rarely manage to frame things the way I like in camera – I am working on it though.

The crop tool is in the Toolbox, you just click on it to activate it then click and drag to select the area of your image you wish to keep before hitting enter to confirm (you can also use the arrow keys once you have selected an area should you wish to nudge it over a bit).

Next I fill the screen with my image so I can see it better (must be an age thing).

OK, now I’m going to brighten this thing up using a few of my favourite methods.. a Levels Adjustment, a Curves Adjustment, the Sharpen filter and a Brightness/Contrast Adjustment. You can use them together or separately depending on how much oomph you think your photo needs.

I always make a duplicate layer first, that way if I make a real pig’s ear of things I can just delete the layer with all the adjustments and get my original photo back again quickly.

Always make sure the copy layer is selected before doing anything else! (you don’t wanna hear the swearing I do when I realise I’ve edited my original).

First I fix the Levels.

When I select this option a Levels Adjustment box opens and I can fiddle about with the settings until I get something I like – GIMP previews my changes as I make them and before I commit to them – which is very helpful indeed.

For a basic pop I drag the black triangle on the left and the white triangle on the right in a bit towards the middle – just a bit usually but since the input  levels on this particular photo are skewed to the left I’ve pulled the light one in far enough to meet where it tapers off. Click OK then to see the effect of this adjustment you can switch the duplicate layer on and off by clicking on the eye next to it

Here’s it on (visible)

And here’s if off (hidden)

That one adjustment is often all it takes.

But I usually prefer things to be a bitty more dramatic (who’d have thunk it?).

Another favourite adjustment of mine is a Curves Adjustment. It’s a powerful tool and the one I use to recreate all sorts of vintage looks but for now I’m just using it to inject even more oomph into this scene. So… still working on the duplicate layer…

… opens up the Curves adjustment box.

You can click on that straight line anywhere you want and drag it into all sorts of weird and wonderful shapes. Each time you click a new anchor point is created and you can have a ball with it. For now though I’m just going to tweak it into an elongated “S” shape so bump up my highlights and lowlights.

Nearly there.

One thing I can’t live without is Lightroom’s Sharpen, it’s a serious bit of kit and has more than adequately replaced some rather expensive Photoshop Actions as my preferred tool. GIMP gives it a pretty good shot though.

For this image I slide it up to 42 – it’s a trial and error thing – if you do apply an adjustment and think better of it the universal get-out (Ctrl-Z) will undo it.

The final thing I’m going to do with this photo may sound like a step backward but meh – it’s easy to overdo things. All that lowlight boosting has left it a bit dark for my liking so a quick Brightness/Contrast Adjustment fixes it nicely.

I slide them both up to 20 in the Brightness/Contrast adjustment box.

And that’s the lot.

If after all this work you do feel it’s all a bit too much you can always reduce the opacity of the duplicate layer. This in effect “turns down” the adjustments.

Before I can save it as a JPEG I must flatten the image.

This merges all the visible layers and gets rid of any transparencies leaving me with something I can “Save As” a new JPEG file.

And here’s the Before and After.

Those few adjustments give the scene a bit more depth, the light is more directional and the reflections on the ceiling have appeared from nowhere.

Have a go. You can download GIMP for free HERE.

And I’d love to see what you come up with.

The one with Rachel in it (and her London dream for photographers)

19 Aug

Imagine living 10 minutes from this…

Looking out over this….

Oil free pelicans.

When I mentioned (briefly – every few weeks or so for about 13 months) here on the blog that we were heading to Florida I was tickled pink when one of my favouritest (tis too a word) photographers in the whole wild world suggested a meet-up.  I’d read Rachel’s blog American Mum as she and her family relocated from North Carolina to Southwest Florida and thought to myself “Yeah MrW can drive that”.

In the end we booked a hotel and made a night of it, that turned into a night and a day of it. Rachel, Michal and their gorgeous munchkins Noah and Chloe first took us down to their local beach where, seriously, there were dolphins frolicking around in the sea. Heaven or what?

In the evening we were introduced to Rachel’s parents and we all talked the hind legs of a donkey over much yumminess at the local Olive Garden. This is what happens when a group of teachers get together, honestly you should see the edubloggers yapping on Twitter 🙂

We must have managed to talk slowly enough to convince them we weren’t nutters (although Michal being a Scot no doubt helped all round) because we were very kindly invited round for some pool time the next day.

Rachel and Michal’s home is gorgeous, bright and light its huge walls are graced with stunning canvases and prints, all Rachel’s own work. It’s a strange experience, walking into someone’s home for the first time when you have already had glimpses into it though their blog. You feel like you know the place, you can point to canvases and “remember” where the photo was taken, how it was chosen to be hung, the shopping trip to IKEA to buy the discontinued furniture. It’s weird this blogging malarkey, that lets us into the lives of strangers without them knowing we’re there. I felt like a bit of a stalker!

By the time we hit their community pool the boys had warmed up to each other and got on swimmingly…

We swapped teeth rotting confectionary (as you do) Cadburys from Scotland to the US and a cornucopia of American icons from the US to Scotland (and we’re still working our way through them – the Chex are mine .. all mine!) and it was all we could do to drag ourselves away in time to drive back to Kissimmee.

We had an absolute ball, a real highlight of our month in the US. A wonderfully laid back time and we didn’t even talk about blogging or photography all that much.

And there’s a rather exciting p.s. to all this.

The Duriks are pondering a visit to the UK next summer and Rachel has mentioned she’d love to run one of her (un)workshops in London.

I’ll bite the hand of anyone who tries to get in front of me in that queue.

I imagine these things take a bit of organising and it would help to know of there’s enough interest to make it viable. So… can I take this opportunity to introduce the the most fabulous portrait photographer I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting and I highly recommend that anyone interested in learning from the woman who taught me how to get off manual (and much more not really in evidence here since I never did get to grips with the D90) go here and tell her so we can persuade her en masse that she simply MUST get on that plane and bring her (un)workshop to our shores.

That is all.

Must stop blinking

18 Aug

How did this happen?

I caught the tiny, fleeting hint of apprehension

Then it was gone

And now I have three school children

And thus begins another battle against conformity, uniformity and bashing them into round holes

Wish us luck!