Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The Kraken, Olympics and Perseid's 2012!!!

Good afternoon interweb, the weather as it has been most of this summer is a pale shade of shite outside.
I called over to an even drabber Chesterfield this morning to see the lovely Nick Kate and Bradley the dog who tried to nibble my fingers. I'm sure he hasn’t lost all desire to devour my ample form and I even got to say hello to spanner who eventually awoke like the Kraken from her pit and hoaved into the living room closely followed by another 2 semi clad teenage girls. Lucky Nick.
The weekend was filled mostly by work and Friday night I watched the Olympic London 2012 Opening ceremony.

I watched it in the bar with friends and have to admit it was pretty damned impressive.
A few good humoured jokes flew about the interweb within minutes between myself and friends from other countries as to how they seemed to gloss over two world wars and one world cup doo dah doo dah. They also seemed to gloss over the septics giving us a kicking as well but as I pointed out, War! What is it good for? Teaching Americans geography!!!!
My American friends have decided to boycott the Olympics until Maypole dancing is an Olympic event which I can’t see happening anytime soon.
I have also been looking out from planet Bagsta into the deep wonderous universe again and have even ventured to take a few snaps in the hope that the Perseid's 2012 may be visible. 

This weekend was one of the times they may have been visible with August 10th to 13th also the next good viewing time. This weekends viewing was cut short by a very bright near full moon which didn’t set till after 01.30 hours so I am hoping for clear skies in August. 

Anybody wishing to have a look for these meteor showers can look skywards on the dates mentioned above and see them with the naked eye.
From the UK it would be best to look up and North East after midnight and towards dawn when you could expect to see anything up to 60 or so an hour.
These meteors are tiny, usually about the size of a grain of sand but as they are travelling at around 71 kilometres per second they put on one hell of a light show if you can see them.
Anyway interweb, I will take my glass back off to do some work now and leave you with some drivel, The absence of alternatives clears the mind marvellously and I have come to realise more vividly the meaning of the doctrine of acceptance. To refrain from giving advice, to refrain from meddling in the affairs of others, to refrain, even though the motives be the highest, from tampering with another's way of life - so simple, yet so difficult for an active spirit.
Peace out y'all, THE BAGSTAXXX

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Selective colouring and particles!!!

Hello interweb. there is a very strange bright thing in the sky outside. I'm scared so I thought I would pop along here and share with you my method of selective colouring a black and white photograph.
I am not a massive fan of this type of photograph myself but some subjects do work well with the technique and all I am doing is sharing my method with you. The whole process can be done in Photoshop but as my work flow now includes Lightroom I will begin there.
Please click on any of the images for a larger version.
First off we need to open our Raw file in Lightroom.

Here I have adjusted the colour temperature to cloudy as I nearly always have it set to auto on the camera. I have adjusted the exposure very slightly to darken the image a little and made minor adjustments to the luminance to get rid of a bit of noise. Export or save this image to a folder where you can find it later.
Next we convert the image to a black and white one. There are lots of different ways of doing this which I am not about to go into here but try to get a good tonal range by making adjustments to the levels etc so that you get rich blacks and a good tonal range all the way up to the white highlights. Export or save this black and white image to the same folder as before and give it a new name.

Next we need to open up both images in Photoshop.

Here we make the black and white image active and click on edit-select all. We then copy and paste this image on top of the colour image using the edit-copy-paste command.
This should have created a new level with the black and white level on top. Make sure that the black and white level is highlighted to work on and then select the eraser tool from the tools menu.

For this image I set the eraser tool to 32% opacity flow 100% and simply started to paint over the poppy and it's stem adjusting the size of the brush as needed for the more intricate bits. Click away until the amount of colour you require has come through.
If you go over a bit you didn't mean too simply go to edit undo(this is why I click lots of times instead of painting large areas)
Once you are happy with your image you will go to Levels-Flatten Image.
I will then make a few more adjustments and maybe use the burn tool a little to burn in some of the midtones but only very small amounts at a time (set at 2%).

If you really want a dreamy effect you could always add a little diffuse glow which can be found under the filters menu but it is all subjective really.

Time from opening up first image in Lightroom to getting final edit? About 5 minutes.
And so to some drivel interweb,  We are a specific arrangement of particles and this instant is infinite. Did we luck out, or didn't we? The odds against this sentence having ever being typed, much less the odds against you reading it were inconceivable. Smile, because the fact that you're able to is almost impossible to comprehend.

Peace out yall, THE BAGSTAXXX

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Basic adjustments to improve your pics!!!

Ok interweb, as a follow on to my post about the very basics of how to take photographs using a digital camera I am now going to explain a little about the reasons why some of your photographs may not quite be looking as they should.
Maybe they look a little flat or dull and muted instead of vibrant and rich in colour depth.
I have said it before and I will say it again. Every photograph that you take in a digital format could use a little help afterwards in a photo editing package. The results whilst subtle can make all the difference.
You don't have to use software that costs hundreds of pounds either. Lightroom or photoshop elements are more than adequete.
If you have the ability to shoot in raw then I suggest that you do but you will have very dull results to start with.
Here is an image opened up in lightroom from a raw file.

If we open up the develop interface we can then start making adjustments to the image. As I said before, it doesn't need much and the changes are subtle.

A we can see the colours are a little washed out and there is not much contrast or colour depth to the image.
In the basic adjustment tab we increase the clarity and vibrance a little and lower the tone curve to give the image more colour depth, contrast and generally improve the overall look of the image.
Whilst this takes little to no time to do the results really are worth the effort.
In a side by side comparison you can see the subtle differences (depending on the quality and calibration of your monitor) that a small investment of time can make.
(Please click on any of the images to enlarge them)

Depending on your choice of software depends on what the adjustments are called. If you look back through previous blog posts you will find a tutorial on doing a similar thing in photoshop using curves and levels.....

Olympics, Censorship and dog saliva!!!

Good afternoon interweb, as I'm currently kind of house bound due to my glass back and incredible pain in my ass cheek I thought I would drop by for a chat.
You know I was thinking the other day about my time at school. They say, (they are still around but I have yet to discover exactly who “THEY” are) that your school days are the best of your life. Utter crap!  Mine were not! The only thing I learnt at school was that in real life, there is no such thing as algebra.
My school days were the worst time I have ever spent whilst I have been on this planet. I hated them. My careers advisor suggested I should be a prison guard. What the fuck!!!!! Who gives out advice like that?
Probably the same sort of people who have decided that the London 2012 games, Olympics website etc cannot be linked to unless you are going to say nice things about it.
 Probably the same people who say you are not allowed to use any Olympic related words, phrases or indeed anything whatsoever to do with the Olympics in your own literature or advertising, Baguettes named after the torch have been banned as have Olympic fete’s on village greens. Chip shops will be closed in the vicinity of Olympic events as McDonalds are the official sponsors. You won’t be able to take your own food and drink with you to events.
I am indeed wondering when I post this blog post how long it will be before I am “requested” to remove anything relating to the Olympic games.
The top result for a Google search on Olympic censorship returns a 4 day old link to an article written in the Mail. Here is a photo of the page.

These people really need to get a grip on reality.
So here is a link to the official Olympic site.  www.olympics2012.com Make up your own mind about the rights of individuals to celebrate the Olympics in their own way, people who live in this country and are paying for it and having to put up with all the disruption it brings.
With the Olympics in mind here is some drivel, Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.
And now for some non Olympic related drivel, did you know that dog saliva can actually help mend a broken heart.
Peace out yall, THE soon to be censored BAGSTAXXX
And just for the hell of it here is a photo of a pretty lady with glasses on.

Monday, 9 July 2012

ISO, Shutter speed and Aperture!!!

Good morning interweb, well it is as I start writing this but may well be the afternoon or even evening by the time I finish. 
Quite a weekend all round really. Remembrance of the people killed in the 7/7 bombings, work, and the discovery that Andy Murray is Scottish after all and not British.
I have managed to get a few shots in the can as they say with a Canon 7D camera and Lightroom has hoaved into view on my processing radar.
A few people have been asking one or three questions about photography etc this weekend so I thought I may give a bit of a simple guide to the basics of how it all works with these new fangled digital works of the devil camera thingies.
The very bare basics of digital photography are this, you have a camera with a sensor inside it instead of film.
That sensor is exposed to light thus creating an image which is recorded in a digital file.
For us to get a correctly exposed image we have to control how the sensor reads that light and how much light we expose the sensor too.
To control how much light falls on the sensor and how the sensor reads that information we have 3 main attributes which we can control.
ISO, shutter speed and aperture. All 3 work together and affect one another as their respective attributes are changed.
Lets take a look at each of these in turn.
ISO, this is what was called ASA in the days of film photography and in the digital world is responsible for how sensitive we make the sensor in the camera to the light that falls on it.
The figures are pretty similar to that of ASA and so an ISO of 100 would be fine for shooting outside on a nice sunny day but would be of no use at all in a dark room or at a concert for example. With film the higher the ASA rating the more “grain” was visible, with ISO, the higher the number the more “noise” is introduced to the photograph.
Shutter speed, This is what dictates the amount of time that light is allowed to fall upon the sensor to allow the sensor enough time to record an image. For general use this is measured in fractions of a second and a good rule of thumb to prevent camera shake (blurred images from movement whilst the shutter is open) it is advisable to always use a shutter speed at least equivalent to the focal length of the lens in use. For example if you are using a 100mm lens then you should really be using at least 1/100th of a second shutter speed or have the camera on a tripod.
Aperture, this is where most people at first start to get confused.
This is not helped by the fact that the bigger the number the smaller the hole or “aperture” that the light is allowed to travel through. The size of the aperture also has a bearing onto the depth of field of the photograph or in other words, how much of it is in focus from front to back.
For instance if you set your aperture to F22, a very large part of your image from front to back would be in focus and the reverse, at F2.8 only a very short range from front to back would be in focus. This is also dependent on where you focus the camera.

OK so now we have the basics how do they all relate to one another .
Say we were outside on a nice sunny day and we set our camera to ISO 100 and a shutter speed of 1/200ths in its Tv mode (in this mode you set the shutter speed and the camera sets the F stop to allow for a correctly exposed image). We press the shutter button part way down and the camera takes a reading of the light available in the scene and tells us it will set the F stop to F8 to get a correctly exposed image.
But we are taking a photograph of a landscape and require much more depth of field (more of the image in focus from front to back) so we require an F stop at around F16.
To achieve this our 3 settings all interact in a predictable way.
We could set the ISO to a higher level to make the sensor more sensitive to the light falling on it or we could adjust the shutter speed to achieve the same result. For every notch we lower the shutter speed the Fstop increases in a linear fashion and the same is true in reverse. So ignoring the stupid .5 parts of F stops if we take the shutter speed down from 1/200th to 1/160th, the F stop would go from F8 to F9. We repeat this process till we get the aperture to F16.
Obviously there are at times other factors to take into account but getting the basic understanding of what is going on will go a long way to help you getting more from your photography and helping you get the results you want.
I will hopefully be putting up some more basics classes or if anybody would like to know a little bit more about any aspects of photography that I may know about just send me a message asking and if I know anything about it ill put up a post.
But till then, here is some drivel, Do not remove a fly from your friend's forehead with a hatchet and remember this, The reason most people never reach their goals is that they don't define them, or ever seriously consider them as believable or achievable. Winners can tell you where they are going, what they plan to do along the way, and who will be sharing the adventure with them.
Peace out yall, THE BAGSTAXXX

Monday, 2 July 2012

Falling apart, Extinction and Stupidity!!!

Good afternoon interweb, and how are we today?
I am slowly falling apart due to a lifetime of asking my body to do things that it really is not built for. Bad back, sciatic nerve damage, prolapsed disk, deaf in one ear, weak ankles and knees and now tooth ache. Fi was right you know, I should just go quietly to the vet and be put down.
But then who would annoy everybody in the pub, at work, on the PSN?
This got me to thinking about species as a whole and more importantly about the extinction of species.
You see interweb there are many species on planet Earth that really are reliant on the existence of other species and without the existence of one, the other would also falter and die out as well.
It would be a kind of domino effect. It is estimated that if the nearly 12,200 animals and plants worldwide currently listed as threatened or endangered were to disappear, another 6,300 "affiliate" species could also be lost.
There are so many insects, plants, fungi and other organisms that rely on the unique qualities of certain hosts that the hosts extinction would have a knock on effect.
The demise of the Rhino in Africa mainly down to pouching for Rhino horn which is valued higher than gold could have a devastating effect on the whole habitat which in turn would affect other species such as the sweet grass munching Impala.
Bees and other insects that fly around pollinating plants and such are also in danger and the knock on effect for us could have far reaching consequences as crops fail etc.
If we take an example from closer to home, the Large Blue Butterfly which became extinct in Britain in around 1979 and take a closer look as to why it became extinct we will see the reliance of one species on another.
You see the Large Blue actually relied on the presence of a single species of Red Ant.
You see upon reaching a certain size, the caterpillar that becomes the large blue butterfly leaves its food plant and masquerades as a red ant larva. The caterpillar is taken inside the ant nest where it promptly turns carnivorous and starts devouring its hosts' eggs and young. Eventually the parasitic caterpillar pupates, later emerging as an adult butterfly.
It was found that where one of the species had become extinct, so had the other. This was due to the special circumstances that the red ant actually needed to survive.
The ant needs hot conditions and therefore needs vegetation that's quite short so the sun gets through, What seems to have happened is that the amount of grazing by sheep declined, and the grass had got slightly longer. This led to a massive reduction in populations of these ants.
So without the ants, no Blue Butterfly. They (there they are again) have been trying to re-introduce the Butterfly to Southern England since 2000 and indeed record numbers have been reported in June of this year.
The butterfly story is but the tip of a melting iceberg as even the distribution of plant seeds can be down to the fact that a single species will eat the fruit and then distribute the seeds elsewhere after nature has taken it’s course.
So in my simple mind I believe that the extinction of any species is best avoided if at all possible and been as we are fairly high up on the food chain and have the ability to think, I believe that we have a duty to try to save as many species as we can.
Right then interweb, about time for some drivel ma thinks. There are 10^11 stars in our  galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Maybe we should call them economical numbers. Or maybe we should start holding our politicians and leaders to account in a way that may make them do the jobs they were voted into office for in a better more sincere manner.
I am also of the belief that no amount of learning can cure stupidity, and higher education positively fortifies it.
Peace out yall, THE BAGSTAXXX