Winter Landscapes

It’s been a while since my last proper blog post, mostly due to workload, and then as usual home life took over in the gaps in between.  My trusty 24-105 lens failed, but thanks to the Canon CPS service, the repair was done, and the lens returned to me within 6 days, which included a weekend.

So yesterday – and just before a major shoot, for one of my clients, I decided to head out and give it a road test.  We headed out to the Peak District, and one of my favourite locations – Higger Tor, which is not far from Stanage Edge.  The rugged landscape is beautiful, and with a bit of winter sunshine in late afternoon it was superb.

The grouse were constantly calling, and the wind was fierce, which resulted in some images being a little blurred – I wanted to keep the ISO low, but it was impossible to shoot more than a handful of shots at lower shutter speeds.  However, the long shadows, and golden glow more than made up for it.

Welcoming in 2012 !

Happy New Year 2012 – it’s already a great start to the year.  On the first day back at work, we secured a contract with a new client, which looks set to grow at a great rate throughout the next year.  We look forward to achieving some great photography over the coming months…. watch this space for images we will be allowed to show.

We’ve also had a great studio shoot right at the end of December – using a local place, right in the heart of Stockport.  The aim was to shoot images with a feel of the artist Jack Vettriano (and for those of you who don’t know who he is – he’s the chap who painted the dancers on the beach, who are being sheltered by a butler holding an umbrella).  His work has fascinated me for a long time, and now we have been able to emulate some of his images.

We are aiming to work up some more pictures in the spring, and to make a full collection for an exhibition later in the year.  I really hope we can make this come to fruition.

In the meantime, we wish you health, wealth, and happiness for the coming year.

Unsharp Mask – CS5

We all want our photographs to be sharp as can be, and that begins when you take the shot in the first place.  A camera on a tripod, sharp lens, accurate focus, all go to assist you.  Afterwards though, you process in photoshop or lightroom, and you can get something extra.

Sharpening is best done at the very end of any other processing that you do – as other things can actually soften the image slightly.  So what’s the best way….

I use unsharp mask in CS5 – it uses the same engine as Lightroom 3 – and you should get the same results.  Oversharpen an image, and it can result in a halo where dark parts of the shot, meet lighter ones.  This is caused because when sharpening happens in the software pixels are either lightened or darkened to make edges seem clearer.  Oversharpening can emphasise this difference, and you see the halo.

So, you look at the unsharp mask settings, and there are three sliders, Amount, Threshold, and Radius.

Amount is about how much you want to sharpen the image.  The higher the number, the sharper it looks, but overdo this, and you will get the ‘halo’ effect.

Radius – this affects how many pixels away from the edge the sharpening will be applied to.  Low numbers mean the effect is more exaggerated. The higher numbers will start to soften the effect slightly.

Threshold defines what the software thinks is an ‘edge’ – the higher the number, the more difference there has to be between pixels before it is counted as an ‘edge’.

So what’s a good setting to use ?  Well that all depends on the image – some (like landscapes) can stand more sharpening than others.  Portraits can stand being sharpened around the eyes and hair, but you would want the skin to be less defined.

Remember that when the image is finally printed, it can lose some definition, so oversharpen slightly for this reason.

In the shot at the top of the post I used the following settings…. amount 65%, radius 1, and threshold 3.

It’s riot free here…….

It’s been a long night in Manchester – and it’s been a tragedy that after all the work done post IRA bomb, there are idiots that will just wreck it all again….. I’m too old to understand.  Hey ho !  onwards and upwards…

I’ve just been on an evening course all about time-lapse photography.  It of course ended up with me spending money, this time on an intervalometer.  I’ve uploaded my first attempt onto Flickr… which was of course my better half mowing the lawn.  It’s been suggested that I should add the ‘Benny Hill’ music.

I’ve also been working on images with ‘white’ backgrounds, with the use of a light-tent whilst the weather has been not so brilliant.

These images almost look like sketches when they are printed large.  This is Lavender taken out of the back garden and arranged in sand in a small glass vase.  The vase has been faded out into the background, and the latin text added – after looking it up on the web that is.

Add one flash either side of the tent, at low power, and over expose by at least one stop to make sure the background is fully white.

These could be great greetings cards, and so easy to do.


The Droste Experience

Over the last few days, I’ve been experimenting with the Droste Effect in CS5 – The Droste effect is a specific kind of recursive picture, one that in heraldry is termed mise en abyme. An image exhibiting the Droste effect depicts a smaller version of itself in a place where a similar picture would realistically be expected to appear. This smaller version then depicts an even smaller version of itself in the same place, and so on. Only in theory could this go on forever; practically, it continues only as long as the resolution of the picture allows, which is relatively short, since each iteration geometrically reduces the picture’s size. It is a visual example of a strange loop, a self-referential system of instancing which is the cornerstone of fractal geometry.

Whilst I don’t always understand the mathematics of it, the principle works well…

You need a couple of plugins for photoshop to achieve the effect, and they can be found on the Adobe Website, and are free – the first is “Pixel Bender”, and the add-on for that, is “Droste” – both of which sit in the filters menu of CS5. More fiddling is needed to achieve the desired effects, but there are plenty of good tutorials online. I’m sure I’ll get around to writing my own when I get the chance.

But in the meantime, I’m going to have a ball with this filter.


It was wonderful last week to use the prestigious Barlow Studios for a day long portrait shoot.  Clients included a professional bodybuilder, and a model updating his portfolio.

Shooting a bodybuilder was fascinating – with a great insight into the competitive world that these guys have. Only a few of the images will be made available to the public – but this is one of my favourites from the session.


Making Your Workflow with Lightroom 3

Making your Workflow with Lightroom

The Course is now full – however, we do have a reserve list, so please contact us if you think you would like to join us on the 26th.

A one day course to be run at the Best Western Moorside Grange Hotel, in Disley – on Sunday – June 26th – Establish your workflow from shoot to print using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3. With full training being given, and exercises throughout the day you will leave with an excellent working knowledge of this piece of software. Full course notes will be issued, together with a memory stick of images for your use. Registration at 9.30am, with coffee, tuition, lunch and finish around 4.00pm. Refreshments will be available all day. At only £85 per delegate can you afford to miss it? There will also be a competition during the afternoon, for which a great prize will be offered………

Click here to go to the registration page and see full details of the day.