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Tech Podcast Network
Sunday
Apr052009

SCL Photo Podcast Bows Out... For Now

SCL PodcastThanks to everybody for downloading and listening over the last several months.

SCL will be back, I'm just not sure when, so please leave it in your subscription lists,

Thanks again, Rob.

Subscribe on Itunes. (Will open Itunes, then you need to click on the "subscribe" button.) (Free)

Subscribe with other Podcatchers. (Google Reader, etc) (For Free)

Download / listen to the mp3. (Right-click then "save target as" / "save link as".) (Did I say it was free?)

Download / listen to the LOW BANDWIDTH mp3. (Right-click then "save target as" / "save link as".) (Again, free!)
Monday
Mar302009

SCL Photo Podcast 38: Journey Through The British Isles, By Harry Cory Wright, Book Review

SCL PodcastQuick chat about a bargain book that I picked up at a local charity shop...

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Show notes:





Related Links:

Man, I Miss My Photography!

Photowalk 68, Welcome Back!


My Notes:

journey_book_coverFeature: Journey Through The British Isles , Harry Cory Wright, Book Review

Official Website of The Book

The Authors Website.

BBC article about making the book.

"Journey", available at Amazon.co.uk

"Journey", available at Amazon.com (USA)

Yesterday Suzanne and I went on a bit of a bargain hunt. We hit an indoor car-boot sale in Portsmouth at about 7 o'clock, then went for a nice cooked breakfast, then we looked round the shopping centres first in Fareham then in Southsea, Portsmouth.

While having a dig in one of the charity shops I found this amazing book - Journey Through The British Isles, by the photographer Harry Cory Wright, so I thought I'd talk about it today.

The first thing that hits you when you pick up this book is it's size. It must be a good two and a half feet across when opened up, and about a foot high, there's about 100 full colour, mostly full-page, photographs, that look stunning, both in terms of the colours themselves, but also because of the detail within these images.

The photographer, Harry Corry Wright, spent 6 months in 2006 travelling the length and breadth of England, Wales and Scotland with the aim of capturing the disappearing beauty of the British countryside. The thing is, he wasn't using an ordinary camera - no 35mm, digital or medium format here, Harry lugged around a large format film camera that uses 10 by 8 inch film plates - that's about A4 size, and the camera itself, made from brass and wood, is about the size of a portable TV turned on its side.

While leafing through this fantastic prints, the quality in the production of this book shines through. The paper is super glossy and the printer has done a fantastic job with recreating Harry's work.

Whether these photographs will appeal to you depends on if you like landscapes, and in particular British landscapes. We're not talking about high contrast black and white granite monoliths or cavernous valleys, a la Ansel Adams, what we're seeing are lush green rolling hills, misty downs and foreboding moors.

Not many of the photo's in this book stick in your mind straight away - but on the second or third viewing you start to see more and more in the different scenes and vistas, maybe the subtle play of light on some heather, or some distant sheep on a hill - all thanks to the brilliant detail of the large format camera.

My favourites have to be the lakeside or coastal shots - maybe its because I live right next to the sea myself. Hagdale and the Keen of Hamar, with a small farmers cottage tucked into the corner, or perhaps the ever-photographed beachy head with the white cliffs a stark contrast to the deep blue of the sky and sea.

A phenomenal work of great care for the subject he's shooting - Harry Cory Wright's visions of the British Countryside are masterpieces of subtle realism, it's a must read for any landscape photographer. Order it from your local library, amazon (links in the show notes), or for £4.50 from a charity shop near you.

Any book review wouldn't be complete without a little discussion of what we can learn as photographers from the images and text in the book - and Harry rather handily has added some technical notes at the back of the volume to help us out. We may not be shooting large format, but we can emulate some of his ideas to shoot better landscape photographs ourselves.

The first point would be that to shoot a great landscape you need to explore the area and find the most pleasing view, then wait for, or come back when there's great light, which will probably be early morning or late afternoon. The next thing to do is to use a tripod - it slows you down, improving your composition and gives you time to think about the photograph you want to create. The final point I take from the book is that to take a great landscape photograph it helps if you know the area well - to know how it changes through the seasons, and so that you can explore all of it's nook and crannies to find unusual and stunning view-points. The Landscape photographer takes his or her own sweet time.

March / April Photo Assignment - "Depth of Field".

Long Term Assignment - "Where I Live"

Technique challenges (No Time Limit):

No Sky Landscapes

Fill The Frame!

Dawn / Dusk shots

A Landscape Style Shot With Strong Foreground Interest

Remember to email me your photos if you'd like to me work on them for the Photo Workbench.

To contact me, just click on the link near the top of the page under the big picture.

Thanks for listening, see you on Flickr!

Join the Flickr Group!

Cheers, Rob.
Wednesday
Mar252009

Man, I Miss My Photography!

So, here I am, sitting at my PC at half past nine at night, feeling tired after a hard days work, thinking about things to write, and looking back over some of the posts in my blog.

You see I got a new job a couple of months ago, and it's great, but I just don't get the time to use my camera's as much as I used to, and it got me wondering about what that it is that I like about photography so much and why I took it to heart as my main hobby.



I broke my elbow badly just before Christmas 2007, I spent about a week in hospital waiting for an operation, then a few months after at home recovering, so I had plenty of time to read, as I couldn't do much else.

I had an old Kodak digital, but hadn't been that much interested in photography as a hobby, but in those long months with my arm in a special cast I read a few photography magazines, and bought a Fujifilm S5700 just after Christmas 2008.

To start off with the Fuji was simply an answer to a problem I had - no digital video camera - and I needed one for reviews on Sciuridae.co.uk, and I also thought it would make a great new section on that site, but my interest quickly blossomed and I decided to create this blog / website for the dozens of articles I wanted to write.

Robnunnphoto.com has become something of an obsession, and even with my arm in a sling I spent many happy hours out shooting with my new digital camera, covering miles on photowalks, discovering parts of Gosport that I never knew existed. I started the Podcast to talk about and share my experiences, a flickr group, and made lots of great new friends on that photo-sharing site, especially from the S5700 Flickr group.

As I look back at most of my images I cringe. Sure, some are OK, but my early experiments with post-processing, cropping and HDR were "interesting" to say the least. I feel that I'm a little more conservative now, but I've still got a long way to go.

I digress. What is it the I love about photography? Photographs? I like looking at photographs, especially books, but I don't need a camera for that. My photographs? A little, but to be honest once they're up on Flickr I don't look at them too much. Post processing? A necessary evil on my old, slow pc.

I think its the whole experience, rather than one particular part. I like to look out of the window, see the great light, grab my camera, then go out walking just looking for moments and places where I see something that captures my eye and I try to record it. I like the physicality of being out for hours, in all weathers, not knowing what I might find, if anything at all.

I like the relaxation of spending time, mostly alone, focusing on one thing - taking photographs - when all the worries of "normal life" drop away, and it's all about the present, from step to step, where a turn of the head, or a change of direction can suddenly reveal a stunning vista.

Getting home, putting the kettle on, downloading my photo's then working on them is OK, but as I said before it can be a little slow, but I do enjoy the surprise of watching flat colour photo's being transformed into high-contrast black and whites, or detailed HDR's.

After uploading them to Flickr I like the wait for comments, to see what other people think, then writing a post or podcast about it, then thinking about the next photowalk.

That's my problem you see, I like the whole thing, all aspects of photography, especially shooting outside, but I just don't seem to have the time at the moment. I leave for work at about Seven in the morning, and don't get home until twelve hours later. Week-ends and days off are filled with DIY and the garden, so I need a new strategy.

Lunch breaks are too short - I normally only grab less than half an hour, and to be honest I don't really enjoy shooting indoors at home at night.

I think the answer is more sleep. If I can get up an hour earlier, by going to bed earlier, perhaps I can squeeze in a few short photowalks before work, and get back into the groove of my photography - the hobby I love.

Cheers, Rob.

Sunday
Mar222009

SCL Photo Podcast 37 - Car Booter!

SCL PodcastSorry 'bout the lack of podcast last week, I've been very busy with work, plus I haven't been feeling too good. Today I talk about some more film stuff I got from my local car-boot sale.

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Monday
Mar092009

SCL Photo Podcast 36 - What The F?

SCL PodcastF-Stops, apertures... complicated at the best of times, so this week I have a go at explaining it all.....

(Listen out for a couple of mistakes where I get my f-stops mixed up - my apologies in advance!)

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Show notes:





Related Links:

Canon EOS 50e Film SLR Video Review.

Columbus V-900 GPS Photo-Tagger Video Review.


My Notes:

Feature: What The F?

Cool (better than mine) explanation of aperture.

F-Stops on Wikipedia.

One of the most powerful tools we have in our camera to produce our artistic vision is the aperture, or f-stop, at which we take our photographs, yet I find it a bit confusing, so I thought I'd talk today about aperture, and how it changes the look of our photographs, and how it links in with exposure, blurring, focusing and depth of field.

To put it simply, the aperture, or f-stop, is the size of the hole in the front of our camera that lets the light in, yet by changing this basic property, we can produce beautifully blurred, dreamy shots, or have photographs that are pin-sharp across the whole scene, we can freeze time or suggest the passage of time - surely there's no more powerful photographic tool than the size of the aperture in our lenses.

Lets start with the basics. If we use a bigger aperture more light comes in, so we can use a faster shutter speed to avoid camera shake blur or subject movement blur, like if we're hand-holding the camera, or for shooting moving objects like sports or kids running around, and if we use a smaller aperture less light comes in, so we can use a longer shutter speed to create blur in our photo's - say that misty, milky effect in waterfalls, or perhaps a panning shot of a racing car driving past us. I'll talk about how changing the aperture alters your depth of field a little later - but again, simply, the larger the aperture the smaller the depth of field.

Now, the way that the aperture is measured can be a bit confusing to say the least. The f-stop number on your lens, or on the settings in your camera, is not a physical dimension in mm or inches - rather it is given as a fraction of the focal length of the lens, with the 1 over bit missed off. This is why f8 is actually a bigger hole than f16, because f8 is really saying that the aperture width is 1/8th of the focal length of the length, which is obviously a larger fraction than 1/16th. So the first thing to understand is that smaller f numbers are actually larger apertures, or holes, in the front of your camera or lens. Often photographers will mention they're shooting wide-open - this means they're using the widest aperture on their lens, which will be the smallest f-number.

You can physically see this easily on manual film slr's - simply take the lens off the camera, and rotate the aperture ring to see it getting bigger or smaller. On other cameras you can usually see it by setting a wide aperture - small f-number - then by looking straight into the lens as you take a photo. If you then set a smaller aperture, and look straight into the lens as we take another shot, you should see the difference.

Now if we think about how photographs are exposed, that is how dark or light they come out, this starts to make sense. In order to produce a desired exposure, and for arguments sake lets imagine we're shooting in one of the automatic exposure modes, say program, aperture or shutter priority, there's three things that work together together to influence this exposure - ISO, or how sensitive our camera or film is to light, shutter speed, or for how long our camera lets light in for, and aperture, which is the size of the hole that lets that light in.

If we have a constant ISO, say 200, then if we make the aperture, or hole, bigger by using a smaller f-number, we're letting in more light, so in order to have the same exposure, that is how light or dark the photo is, the shutter speed has to go up, so the camera lets less light in to compensate for the bigger hole.

Lets think about the reverse. We're still on ISO 200, and we dial in a small aperture, which would be a larger f number, therefore letting in less light through this smaller hole. In order to keep a constant exposure, the camera has to keep it's shutter open for longer, to let the same amount of light in to compensate for this smaller hole.

So, straight away, we now know how, by using program mode or more likely aperture priority mode, we can get similarly exposed shots with vastly different shutter speeds simply by changing our cameras aperture. You can argue that why not just use shutter priority mode - but a quick play in manual mode will show you that your camera, or lens, has a lot less options when it comes to changing your aperture than when changing your shutter speed - you've got more chance of getting an acceptable exposure by changing the aperture, and by then letting the camera choose the corresponding shutter speed.

Few! That does sound a bit complicated, and you may well say, well, if we really want to avoid camera shake and motion blur in our subjects, why not just shoot wide open all the time, using small f-numbers, so that our camera's can always use a fast shutter speed? The answer to this is that our lenses aren't at their sharpest optically when wide open, or at their smallest aperture, they often can be a little soft - it's normally best to set your aperture in the middle of the range available for really sharp shots, then increase the size of your aperture if you need a faster shutter speed to avoid camera shake or motion blur, or if we're shooting in low-light conditions - or with digital cameras we can also increase our camera's ISO setting, to make it more sensitive to light, but then we have to be aware that photographs taken at higher ISO's often contain more noise. The other reason is that aperture also controls depth of field, which I'll get onto in a minute.

Before I move it, it's worth talking about the confusing aspect of how different f-stop numbers relate to each other. When we're talking about shutter speeds or ISO, it's relatively easy to grasp. A shutter speed of 1/100th of a second will let twice as much light in as 1/200th of a second, or by increasing our ISO from 200 to 400, we're making our cameras twice as sensitive to light.

However, with f-stops it isn't quite so linear and simple. Because f-stops are a fraction of the apertures diameter compared to the focal length, we've got a problem. The actual aperture is a rough circle - and its the area of that circle, or disc, that controls how much light comes through. But from maths at school we know that if you double the diameter of a circle, the area more than doubles. I won't go into the maths, just realise that the relationship between f-numbers is not a linear one - that is f/8 doesn't let in twice as much light as f/16, as you'd think, as a one eighth is twice as big as one sixteenth, it actually lets in roughly four times as much light!

This becomes really important when buying lenses for dSLR's - because if you just look at the f-numbers it's hard to understand why an f4 lens costs many times more than an f2.8 lens, as they seem fairly close in terms of fractions, but when you realise that the f4 lens lets in twice the amount of light, and therefore you can halve the shutter speed, you can understand why wildlife and sports photographers prize these lenses so much.

Another fly in the ointment is zoom lenses. As we're increasing our zoom's power, we're effectively increasing the focal length - so as we "zoom in" our aperture is getting smaller relatively, even though the actual size of the hole isn't changing - so that's why lens makers charge so much for fast zooms, where the aperture can be wide throughout the zoom's length - they're difficult and expensive to make, but can make a huge difference to the afore mentioned sports and wild-life photographers, or to any photographer who's hand-holding at long zooms and who wants to avoid the camera shake associated with longer shutter speeds and longer focal lengths.

So, I'll finish this bit about aperture with a list of the basic or full f-stops - the numbers where each setting lets in half as much light. Our cameras have half or third f-stops included too, to make things even more complicated, but the basic numbers go like this: F1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22, 32, 45 and 64. Don't try to memorise them, just be aware of their relationships, and that smaller f-numbers are bigger apertures, which means faster shutter speeds, and vice versa.

All of this talk of f-stops, shutter speeds and maths isn't very artistic, but perhaps the most interesting aspect of controlling aperture is the way that different apertures also drastically change the look of our photographs in terms of what is in focus and what isn't.

Not only does our aperture control how much light our camera lets in, it also controls what is called our depth of field, the amount of the scene we are shooting that is sharp around our initial focus point.

Woah! This sounds complicated, but it's a great technique to understand. Lets start off with an understanding that our lenses are only able to focus on one distance from our camera at a time - and as we move away from that point, either closer to the camera or further away, the sharpness will decrease to blurring. How fast this change takes place depends on three things - how close we are to the subject, how much zoom (also described as our focal length) we are using, and what our aperture is.

Lets talk about aperture then, in relationship to depth of field. Quite simply, the larger the aperture, remember that means a small f-number, the smaller the depth of field, and vice versa.

Ansel Adams was part of a photographers group called f-64, because he and his colleagues wanted to create beautifully sharp and detailed pictures across the whole scene they were looking at - which meant using very small apertures, hence the name.

In modern photography the move is towards the opposite - it's popular to have portraits, for example, where only the person is in focus, and everything else is blurred. This is achieved by using a large aperture, or small f-number, and the quality of the blurred part of the photo is often referred to as Bokeh, and you can find many forum discussions where impassioned photographers discuss which lenses and techniques give the best Bokeh.

One thing that can be tricky when trying to judge depth of field is that when you look through your view-finder the camera sets it's aperture to its maximum, widest setting, to let the most light in to keep the viewfinder bright. To get a real idea of what the actual depth of field will be like it's necessary to take a photo and review it on your LCD view-screen, or use your depth of field preview function if your camera supports that feature.

Again, this is where expensive lenses have the advantage because of their larger apertures, but always remember the other two things that effect depth of field - distance to subject and zoom, or focal length. If you can't get enough bokeh, or blur, by shooting wide open, try getting closer, using a bit of zoom, or the best technique for people, move them further away from the background!

Actually knowing how large the depth of field is, for a particular lens at a specific aperture is beyond me, but if you do a quick Google search for depth of field guides there's plenty of advice and charts out there, for me it's simply a case of if I want the background blurred, I shoot wide open and get closer or use zoom, and if I want everything sharper I'll use a middling aperture, and move further away or use less zoom.

One final think to talk about in relation to depth of field and aperture is something called hyper-focal distance. This refers to the distance at which everything beyond that point is in focus, or the point at which the lens focuses to infinity. Because we know that smaller apertures, or larger f-numbers, give a greater depth of field, and that as we focus on subjects further away from the camera the depth of field increases as well, often you'll find that in order to get everything in focus you don't need to focus on the things that are furthest away. To simplify, all you really need to do is choose a smallish aperture, then focus on something one third of the way into your scene, and you should find that everything is nice and sharp.

So lets talk about some real-world examples. We're out on a photowalk, in aperture priority mode, shooting hand-held at f6.8 to keep the shots nice and sharp, but the Sun goes in, forcing our camera to use a longer shutter speed to expose correctly, leading to camera-shake blur. We don't want to increase our ISO, so in order to keep our shutter speed up, to avoid camera shake, we then make our aperture bigger, by using a smaller f-number, this lets more light in, thereby keeping that shutter speed nice and quick.

We might then see a nice landscape, where we want the whole scene to be sharp. We set up our tripod, so we don't have to worry about shutter speed, tighten up the aperture, then shoot away, focusing on something about 1/3 into the scene.

Later on there's some nice flowers that could make a pretty macro, and we want some blurred bokeh in the background. We get close, shoot wide open, and there's our lovely subject nice and sharp, with the background blurred just how we wanted it.

Lastly, I better explain why we use the term "f-stop" and stops. Generally, it's believed that we use the term f-stops because the first cameras didn't have apertures that could be adjusted - you actually had to drop in a different plate with a different size hole in it, and these were referred to as f-stops, with each stop letting in twice, or half as much light as the previous plate. So if someone says they're going to "stop down", generally they mean they're going to reduce the size of their aperture by one whole stop, letting in less light. Also, a stop is the same as an EV, or exposure value, for the purpose of exposure bracketing.

Few! I hope that all hasn't been too complicated, and you'll be encouraged to experiment with changing your aperture - to play around with depth of field, sharpness and the resultant shutter speed effects. Make sure you send me some comments with how you get on!

March / April Photo Assignment - "Depth of Field".

Long Term Assignment - "Where I Live"

Technique challenges (No Time Limit):

No Sky Landscapes

Fill The Frame!

Dawn / Dusk shots

A Landscape Style Shot With Strong Foreground Interest

Remember to email me your photos if you'd like to me work on them for the Photo Workbench.

To contact me, just click on the link near the top of the page under the big picture.

Thanks for listening, see you on Flickr!

Join the Flickr Group!

Cheers, Rob.