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Archive for December, 2015

Playing catch up …

It’s been a busy week settling into my new roll as a red van driver, remembering the 3 new routes and absolutely loving it! Scanning the pavement is much more enjoyable than staring at pixels for a living, as I had done previously for 26 years as a compositor at the Mercury.

During one of my short breaks between runs, I tried to create a mind map as part of the course requirements. This is as far as I got before work duty intervened – but it’s an attempt for now at least.
MindMap1

I took the photo below while turning around in a tight spot on one of my runs. On the left, the old Mercury building, on the right, the Hobart GPO – for me an ironic link between my past work life and my new employment.
For many of my 26 years at the Merc, my only view of the world from my desk was across this laneway from the window above the steel landing, the highlight of the day (other than escaping at lunch time) was when the sun would briefly hit the opposite wall casting long shadows from the bricks.
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A huge contrast to the ever changing scene in my new “office” below. Not a very good selfie, but one I’ll thow in here and on my personal Facebook account, it was taken while sitting in traffic with the smaller rear facing phone camera and is heavily backlit.
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Another hat I wear is that of Gingerbread Man – My wife and I own Tasmanian Gingerbread (tasgingerbread.com).
Christmas is of course the busiest time for us, I deliver products and pick up ingredients during the week and help out at our Saturday Salamanca Market stall. My wife does all the cooking and at this time of year we employ three people in our commercial kitchen at Kingston.
Of course, this week our oven decided to break!! Luckily all Christmas orders have been filled and we have a little bit of Christmas stock left.
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I was trying to catch up on the Uni Course notes at Salamanca and to escape disruption so I could concentrate, I went and lay on the grass with my phone. I haven’t done this for way too long and it brought back fond childhood memories of lying on the primary school oval watching the clouds roll overhead at lunchtimes with my friend Joanne Bates – and inspration for another selfie for Project 1.
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I didn’t get very far with the course notes, I’m still a few weeks behind.
I have a Family Christmas gathering today (Sunday) and back on the road again tomorrow.

I headed down to my lair one night during the week and finally had a play with my new camera gimbal for the F550 UAV or “Drone”, as they unfortunatly are often referred to. I don’t like the link to military Predator drones and the implications of spying and what-not that some people assume.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m considering using this as project 2. Below is a photo of the parts layed out ready for assembly to give you an idea of what’s involved. There’s not only the physical side of assembling and balancing the hardware below and all the wiring (which I started threading through the gimbal already), but also setting up the software, gimbal callibration for smoothness, remote transmitter controls for both gimbal and camera and the live video feed. It’s quite complex and involved but the improved image quality should be well worth the effort.
Gimbal1
I’ve done this previously on a smaller scale with my current setup on the F550 but this system is different, so I have many new things to learn. I currently use a much smaller GoPro sized Xiaomi Yi camera on a modified Walkera G-3D gimbal with HDMI to AVI video converter pictured below.
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The gimbal is mounted on two “rails” and counter balanced with the weight of the battery to move it forward so as to avoid propellers in the shot and also flickering shadow from them.
In any case, I will document this project and it will become a part of my tasview.com website and blog in the hope I can help others out who wish to attempt this. Since starting the tasview site in October 2014, it’s had more than 15,000 visitors and over 40,000 views.

Anyway, off to the family function … until next time.


Busy times …

Well, It’s been a busy few weeks. At the same time I started the Uni course in Photography and Social media, I started a new job at Aust Post as a Christmas Casual in the Mail Centre, learning to operate 3 big mail sorting machines. My shifts were evening. Last week I got a call and was asked if I wanted a full time position driving a van! How could I say now, of course I wanted to.
So, I immediately had 3 new routes to learn, my last one has 51 Red pillar boxes to empty, remembering how to get to each of them – and return to base by a strict time with not much lea way for error or traffic hold ups. I had my first solo run on Friday, started off nervously but by halfway around my route I was wearing a huge grin and loving it!
Here’s a quick selfie I took after my very first solo run:
AustPost1
I took this with the smaller front facing camera on my phone, the result is pretty ordinary so not one I will submit for my project.

I haven’t had a chance to even look at week 3 information yet, nor finish some of the requirements for week two – like creating a mind map. If I were to create a mind map at the moment I don’t think I could find a piece of paper big enough – my brain is full! But I do have an idea for creating one when I get a chance.
I plan to continue with the Uni course when I’m more settled into my new roll at work and can hopefully catch up during the Uni break over Christmas. My hours are much longer and cut more into my day.

I’ve been considering themes for project two – I normally just shoot photos as situations arrive or I see something that visually works for a photo.
Last week a new gimbal to mount the Sony RX100M3 onto my F550 UAV or “drone” arrived along with a HDMI converter to give me live video feed on the ground and a remote camera controller. I can’t wait to set this up but it hasn’t had a look in yet. Lots to learn and fiddle with before it gets in the air. I’m also waiting on some longer and lighter aluminium arms to arrive and want to rebuild my current 6 arm UAV into a Y6 – 3 arms with a motor on top and another underneath of each arm to save weight.  This may become my theme of Project 2 of the course – two birds with one stone as it were.
My favorite idea so far though is “Monsters and Freaks”. When Abel Tasman discovered Tasmania he said that the place was so far south that it was only inhabitable by monsters and freaks. I would like to use this to show the two extreme sides of Tasmanian ideologies that often divide our community – the Monsters: those that are willing to destroy what is naturally special and spectacular on this island in the name of improving our ecconomy and jobs, and the Freaks: those that are standing up for the protection of the environment over short term greed.
This would require a lot of time and travel to accomplish what I would like to document and achieve, given my current workload I think I would be stretching myself a bit thin. We’ll see, a while before Project 2 needs to be submitted so I will keep my thinking cap on and see how I go.


Project 2 – the selfie, post 2

Below are two more selfies and some versions with various edits I’ve made. Playing with the idea that a selfie should “reflect” some part of our life or interests, I decided to play with reflections and these ideas evolved from that. This also plays with the fact that most selfies on the internet are taken from a reflection in a mirror.

Selfie reflection in my own eye.
Not that I was aware of it, but perhaps subconsiously inspired by the UTas’s graphic that led me to this course.
inspiration
They say the eye is the window to the soul, I wanted to capture an image of myself reflected in my eye.
“You never know just how you look through other people’s eyes” – Butthole Surfers in ther song “Pepper” – this is how I look through my eyes, kind of.
This is a single image taken using a mirror.
Selfie2 eyesA
To get only the iris in colour, in Photoshop I copied the image to a second layer and made the top image mono and adjusted. I then used the eraser tool with a edge hardness of about 45 to delete just the eye section of the top mono layer so the colour one showed. (This can also be done using masks instead). I had to then desaturate the colouriris as it looked way to intense and fake against the mono face.

I uploaded this pic to facebook as my avatar cropping very close onto just the left eye but it looked a bit menacing. I played around and come up with a single eye square crop for avatar use that includes the camara  – it still uses the “rule of thirds”. I digitally plucked a few long eyebrow hairs too 😉

Selfie2 eyeB
I still thought it looked a bit menacing with the added contrast and detail and I wanted to put even more focus onto the eye and the reflection of me in it, so below I’ve edited the shot by blurring the outer edges of my face and sharpened the eye to that the eye is drawn into it more. I also reduced the contrast of my face and reduced the shadow over my eye to soften the image.
Selfie2 eyeC

After getting some feedback in the UTas forum, I was looking at my efforts, re-reading the course guide and thinking about the images application when I the concept below poped into my head – a reflection of me in my camara lens. Unsure if it would work or how it would come out I’m exceptionally pleased with this single shot result, which has had only minimal post processing.

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Cropped using the “rule of thirds”.

I took it with my Sony RX100M3 looking into my Nikon D3200 lens placed face up on a table outside to get plenty of light. A hedge behind me frames the cirles of the lens nicely and I chose this one because the smallest “selfie” – which is upside down as it would appear on the camera’s sensor is very sharp and the focus fades as it moves out through the layers of lens glass.

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Cropped with upside down me in the centre.

I love the depth, layers  and colour in this shot, however, I need to rething it as a small avatar as it loses all the lovely detail when reduced and it is quite dark. I perfer it cropped with the cirle in centre, to me it seems more balanced with this image. Here’s a closer cropped version which I prefer. For a small avatar, it could be cropped further.
Selfie4 LensC

 


Project 1 – the selfie

The Enclave - Self Portrait 1

We are required to submit three “selfies” or self portraits for the Uni course as part of our assesment. These can be of our personal, creative or professional self and it’s very open and broad.
Sounds easy? Well, for me the image taking is not a problem, three selfies, simple. The challenging part for me is accompanying the images with text describing how I came up with the concept, inspirations, techniques – what, why and how …
For me, ideas often happen at the strangest times – and usually the just happen. An epiphany if you will.
Sometimes I will see something that inspires a creative idea and I bend it to my own needs or store it in my brain for later. Sometimes I’ll draw from something I saw in the past with no idea when or where but it will influence me to try something new.
I like to stay up late. REAL late. Sometimes when I’m really REALLY tired my brain works in wierd ways and BAM!! It’s like looking down a tunnel on a train with light at the end and I can’t stop, grabbing ideas as i fly past them until I explode out of that tunnel with creative genius! Sometimes I look at it again in the morning and think – “what was I thinking”, but most times I’m chuffed with the results.
Often after catching up from the above sleep deprevation with the occasional sleep in, something that’s been bugging me will suddenly become clear – things will come to me in dreams or on waking.
This happened yesterday with Project 2 where we need a theme for 10 photos – more on that in a future post.

Anyway, self portraits.
I guess there are two kinds – those you would use as an avatar – small square representation of yourself, usually a bust or head shot and larger image showing perhaps your full body and more of your surroundings.
Here’s a few examples of me I had posted before the course, there’s quite a variety showing some of my public self, interests and personality.


Below is my first shot taken for this course – perhaps the easiest one.
I’m in my comfort zone, surrounded by technology (I love it!). It’s where I spend a fair bit of my time, building, tinkering, designing, getting creative, sometimes playing games and staying up late. I built this space myself under my house, it’s an extension of me. It has room for eight PC’s and people – a group of mates come up every few weeks for a bit of virtual fun, usually head to head on a race track or hunting each other in a shoot’em. I guess you could call this my office or the Man Cave, I call it … the Enclave. More information can be found HERE.

The Enclave - Self Portrait 1

The Enclave – Self Portrait 1

I took – let just say quite a few – shots, trying different distances to get MORE in (yes, there’s much more!), different heights, angles and poses.
This was my favourite, I look relaxed and happy and though the image is quite cluttered, it shows what this side of my life/personality is all about and many of my interests. I also like the composition – it complies with the “guideline” of thirds, there’s a lot to look at in this image but I feel it flows quite nicely.
I took it with my Sony RX100M3 and processed the single RAW image in Photoshop, bringing out detail in the highlights and shadows and stripping back some of the colour but not all of it as I thought too much information was lost here with so much going on and too much colour made it more overpowering/confusing.

Now to post it in the Uni forums for some feedback. I hope they’re kind 🙂


Basic photography tips

Here’s a few tips/suggestions on taking and editing – or post processing your photos, I hope this post helps you get creative and take better photos if your new to photography.

Two most important tips with any camera to produce better photos:
1. CLEAN THE LENS! A dirty lens results in poor quality photos as it smudges the light hiting the sensor and can add dust speckles.
2. HOLD THE CAMERA STILL! The biggest cause of blurred images is caused by camera shake – this can happen just by the pressure of pressing the button. Ideally support your camera or your body with a tripod, wall, rock or something soldid. Improvise if you have to.
And a couple more:
3. Use the available light to it’s best advantage for your device. Move your position to try some different angles – be aware of back light subjects, they will come out dark.
4. Composition. Generally “the rule of thirds” works best for balanced photos – however, I consider it it more of a guideline than a rule. Divide your image area into thirds and line features up like eyes, horizons with these lines as can be seen below. In most cameras and phone settings you can turn on a grid/guide to help you. Always try to keep the horizon horizontal – unless you’re deliberately doing it for artistic reasons.

Rule of thirds - more of a guideline.

Rule of thirds – more of a guideline.

If you use a phone, there are some great free apps that allow you to do some impressive stuff quite easily before uploading. If you have an Android phone, Snapseed (by Google) is very easy use with a introductory tutorial.
I now use one called HandyPhoto, which is similar but I find it more powerful and doesn’t seem to introduce as much grain when pushing HDR and some other filters – I’m not sure if these are available on Apple’s store.
Unfortunately neither of these will let you put text for a watermark over your image, but “Photo Editor” will (though it’s a little clumsy) and it will also let you crop and resize the image before uploading.
If you are concerned about your photos being stolen – and unfortunately it does happen, you should add a subtle watermark and upload them at a reduced size – around 1200px wide or 800px high is large enough to be viewed online but won’t print very well at larger sizes. Reducing the size before upload also saves your data while your roaming 🙂

you can see more detail on a big PC screen than a phone screen when editing. On PC I use Adobe Photoshop CS6, which is brilliant but quite expensive! It is the last version which doesn’t require an ongoing subscription. You may be eligible for the discounted education version of Adobe Creative Cloud or Lightroom if you are a student.

For a very powerful FREE editor, try GIMP – GNU Image Manipulation Program.
It’s open source and available for PC and Mac.
I haven’t used it in some time but it has many of the tools in Photoshop.
There are tutorials and documentation available on the site – and also search the university of YouTube 🙂

I took this shot on my old Samsung Galaxy S3 using the built in HDR (Hight Dynamic Range) mode below, which brings out the detail in high contrast areas (highlights and shadows). The camera takes several shots and combining them automatically so you do have to hold it still.
By experimenting and using a phones inbuilt features you can get the best out of it and achieve surprisingly good results.

Sunrise Hobart HDR and edited.

This Photo was taken on a Samsung Galaxy S3 using HDR mode and edited with Snapseed.

Original Normal mode Jpg

This is the original unedited “normal” mode JPG from the S3.

Unedited HDR mode JPG from the S3.

This is the original unedited JPG in HDR mode on the S3. You can clearly see much more detail in the highlights and shadows.

I stumbled upon the following handy image size guide for uploading to different Social media on Pinterest – thought I’d share here.

Original source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/214624738470307136/

I previously had a problem with Facebook compression making some of my images look pretty ordinary.
By experimenting before I found the guide above,  I got the best results with images 1000 – 1200 pixels which were not compressed before uploading. In Photoshop I set the jpg image quality to 10. Looking at the chart above I got it right 🙂

By cropping and resizing your images correctly before upload you also save on Data which is important if on a limited plan.
If uploading some photos from your phone to Instagram, you can share it from the same upload to FB, Tumbler, Flickr and a few others – which saves time and multiple uploading / data.