What Filter? Aaargh!

Green highly patterened close up of surfer

I assume it is an everyday occurrence these days for anyone who has taken a nice photograph to proudly show it to some friends and their response is “hmm that’s nice what filter did you use?” Sometimes you may get a slightly kinder “have you enhanced it?”. Such responses never make you feel good. They instantly imply you’re a sort of fraud taking advantage of some algorithm or someone else’s work to make yourself appear more skilful than you are.

“Nice sketch. Did you chop the wood, build your own charcoal clamp and monitor it, maintaining the correct temperature to ensure pyrolysis?”

No I didn’t use a filter.

It is important to remember that photography is a multi-skilled hobby. It’s more than pointing & clicking. Whilst it is certainly possible to spontaneously take great photographs that are perfectly exposed & beautifully framed I doubt even the best professional photographers in the world manage it every time.

Modern digital cameras are exceptionally good at taking care of the technical aspects of getting the exposure right, but if it was that easy they wouldn’t have so many different automatic settings. My Canon EOS 70D has 8 automatic modes & two manual (Manual & Bulb). That’s because shooting a landscape, a portrait, something fast or something brightly lit from behind all require a different balance of shutter speed, ISO and aperture.

You never hear someone say “Did you take it on automatic mode?”. No one piles on the shame for relying on the in-built light meter, or using aperture priority or even full auto. So what’s the obsession with whether you processed a digital image?

I learnt photography before digital cameras existed. You had to predict what film speed you might want for the next 24 or 36 exposures. My camera (a Praktica) had no automatic modes or in-built light meter & you wouldn’t know the results of the settings you chose until you could afford to have the film developed. This is what unprocessed images looked like back then.

Negative of dramtic kite surfer image
(simulated) Colour negative of kite surfer picture

With film you would now have to send the roll of film which contained this image off to a film processing company where they would develop the film, producing negatives like this. Which would then have to be processed on an enlarger – where many editorial decisions can be made & artistic processes applied if you were doing it yourself. Cropping. masking, sharpening, desaturation, exposure compensation, and on & on.

In digital photography there are no negatives just unprocessed data. You can see in the image on the right the sensor pattern before the computer in the camera applies an algorithm to extrapolate a colour image from this data. Basically from this moment on your camera manufacturer applies a subset of multiple algorithms – based upon your camera settings. In order to produce the image it displays on screen &* that you download.

Green highly patterened close up of surfer
Extreme crop of RAW digital image showing sensor pattern

Essentially the 3rd party film processing company we used to send our films off to is now the computer in your camera. Whilst you can then process that jpeg image in photo editing software if you do so you are working on a thin slice of the data available in the camera.

IMG_5272 that I’ve used on this page is impossible to expose for correctly in the standard way (HDR techniques rely on combining multiple bracketed exposures). Luckily although my compositional skills are somewhat lacking to be honest, I’m pretty good at the technical aspects of using the camera. Taking shots like this requires constant adjustment of the exposure because the lighting aspect is completely different when pointing the camera just a few degrees to the left or the right as you can see from the other shots taken in the same short session.

So in order to get something balanced I need to expose for a happy medium, I don’t want a silhouette. I know I can compensate in the ‘dark room’ to a degree. Having spent time in tiny little cramped school chemistry lab back rooms hastily converted in to a dark room for camera club. Playing with bits of cut out card taped to coat hangers I’m very very grateful that these days our computers are capable of the same artistic techniques used throughout the history of photography.

Now in the end I wasn’t 100% happy with my manual exposure choice chosen in that tiny moment in time but thanks to home developing I was able to produce something beautiful. Which image do you prefer?

Unedited. Flat tone curve.
Exposure corrected backlit surfer in the sky
Manually exposure corrected , cropped + vignette & noise reduction applied.

All images copyright © J.Sears 2020. All rights reserved.

19th December Kite Surfers

Challenging but rewarding light as always at Lancing beach in the winter. Most of the kite surfers were just finishing up as I got down there which is a double blessing. The beach is a non-stop, 360°, variable light, photo opportunity. When looking through the view finder there is a constant sense that just out of sight to one side, 5 marmosets, 2 pangolin and a leopard are performing The Madness of King George by Alan Bennet whilst wearing roller skates.

Equally when there’s 16 kite surfers there’s a much greater chance I’m pointing the camera at the ‘wrong’ one at any given time.

All images copyright © J.Sears 2020. All rights reserved.

Grey Days

This week I’ve twice trudged down to the beach to catch the sunrise & both times been thwarted by a bank of cloud on the horizon blocking the sunrise. Sometimes you just have to make do.

On the day that ill health prevented me from getting to the beach of course the skies were blue gold & streaked horizon to horizon with dramatically lit cloud structures.

All images copyright © J.Sears 2020. All rights reserved.

Conservatives ban ‘veracity’

The carnage continues throughout upper class England after the Conservatives decree ‘veracity’ is no longer cromulent.

Speculum Rees-Mogg (no relation to any real person living or dead) said “I’ve personally had to, ahem, dispose of four children due to naming three of them in honour of my aunt Milicent Verum Mortuus Est Veracity Rees Mogg (no relation to any real person living or dead) .

No relation to Veracity Rees Mogg
attribution & license

“Veracity clearly had to go, as any nod to reality within the party can lead to consequences & we thought it better to be safe than sorry with Veracitus, Veracitania and poor, dearest, dearest ,sweet, sweet Caliente How could she have ever got on at boarding school without her sisters?” The man, who was inexplicably, wearing a top hat, but had a much easier to understand ‘punch me in the face’ post-it note stuck on his back continued “In this post truth society we in the Conservatives have done more than almost any others to bring the truth to its knees begging for mercy. ”

At this point we were interrupted by a very, very small man tugging on Mr Rees-Mogg’s trousers. Mr Toad was some kind of Government source it seemed

“It is unfortunate for some. Luckily we stuck to the traditional toad family classics, Masturbatia and Unpronounciatia.” smirked the strange weasely little fellow who seemed to have forgotten to return his wind in the willows extras costume. “Cromulence is of utmost importance to the Conservative party. We need a new measure of propriety. One that only ourselves, and those who can afford a twelve week lesson in New Conservatism can understand.

Another Government spokesperson
attribution & source

Government Sources

A Government Source
Source: US Federal Govt.

It’s alleged The BBC may have talked to some Government sources:A Government source said, “the best thing about being a government source is you never have to explain who you are or how you know what you know. If the “Government” source is promoting the party line, then the Government source is “The Government” said a source.

I er.. I..er well you..know… thought it better to be..er…ha..er…safe..than er….you know sword of damoclese er..what..come on..ha! …well…er…ha..you..er..ha..come..on..er..well..er. consequences

Project Moonshot

It’s not just lying, under-educated, elite spaffers & chancers who can launch excitingly named projects in a misguided effort to sound effective.

Since I hadn’t taken any night time tripod shots for close to a decade it was time to dig out the tripod! Then search for the quick shoe in the loft, the garage & the internet. Then email Vanguard to ask what dimensions or part number shoe my ancient tripod requires & back to the internet. Wait 3 days & fit quick shoe.

  • Camera – check
  • Tripod – check
  • Coat – check
  • Darkness – check
  • Tripod Quick Shoe – check (eventually).
  • Darkness again – check.

My first attempt was at just after 6am in September I think. Fortunately I hadn’t crawled out of bed specially for it because the result was laughable. I hadn’t found how to switch to spot metering yet & was struggling with my vision so I was trying to rely on autofocus. The results were horrible. The one useful thing that came out of it was I got a really good picture of how dirty my lens was. The results were so bad I didn’t bother saving them.

My second attempt was an early evening on 1st December. Having discovered the button for switching the meter evaluation mode I was fully primed. The high contrast of the full moon against the black of night defied the capabilities of my crappy old eyes though. So I was struggling to focus. The light meter was suggesting very long exposures it just couldn’t seem to meter just for the moon even in spot mode.

The exposure meter suggested this. The completely over-exposed moon is not what I had in mind.
Manually setting exposure. Still not what I was hoping for,

Switching to manual yielded this at f20 1/4s ISO 100

Again not satisfactory at all.

The moon decided to bugger off behind some clouds & I was chilly & needed to make dinner.

I decided to come back to moonshots until I had performed a little research, but my initial thoughts were to try longer exposures with a neutral density filter.

A few days later after getting some great kite surfer pics I was trudging home. There was a partial moon high in the sky above some dramatic white clouds.

Nice daytime moon
Zooming in on the daytime moon
After some processing of the RAW file.

I am very pleased with the end result.

All images copyright © J.Sears 2020. All rights reserved.

November Gallery

A collection of images from November 2020

All images copyright © J.Sears 2020. All rights reserved.

October shores

A kite surfer hangs high in the air above the surf

I don’t know if there is something geographically special about Lancing beach that makes it a favourite for kite surfers or if it is due to offshore activity regulations or just availability of car park & utilisation etc.. but when the wind blows you know the water will be filled with kite surfers. Lancing Kite Surfing club meets here so perhaps that is reason enough.

Continue reading “October shores”