CC

I thought it would be useful to do a short post about Creative Commons, what it is and why I use it.

Creative Commons (CC) allows others to use the photos that I’ve taken without the need to ask permission. It also allows me to place restrictions on how the photos are used, should I wish to do so. The only requirement that applies to all of the variations of the CC licence is that attribution is given. That is, if you use my photos then you must credit me.

By default I share my photos under the “Attribution-ShareAlike” variation. This means that not only can you reuse my photos as they are, but that you are free to use them as a basis for other works – so long as you then share that work under the same licence.

I have considered the use of more restrictive licences (and occasionally need to use such) but this version has been pretty much problem free since February 2009 when I started using it.

Questions

Why do you even bother sharing your photos? It’s effort right?

To my mind there is little/no point in taking photos if they don’t get seen. I’m old enough to remember when photographs were printed on paper. I have a large collection of them. They’re in the Boots cardboard folders, in a box, under the stairs. Sad!

Why don’t you charge for them and become rich?!

Because as soon as you get paid for something it becomes a job. You have to deliver something of value in exchange for the money that you get paid. I enjoy photography as a hobby.

What are the rewards for the effort involved?

First, I get into places for free! I used to attend ThinkVisibility for free because I took photos at the first one. I now get to watch loads of roller derby for free, and stand in the middle of the track whilst doing so. It’s great! (When I say ‘free’ here I mean that there is no exchange of money in either direction. I don’t buy a ticket to get in, but I don’t get paid for the hours of work sorting through, tagging and titling photos.)

Second, if people are happy with the photos I’ve taken then they use them. People generally don’t like having their photo taken. It’s such a compliment when someone chooses to use one of my photos as their profile picture on Facebook.

Third, as people like/share my photos then I get a reputation and a portfolio and so I get to take more photos.

Do you have a preference for attribution?

The best way that people can give credit is to link back to the photo on Flickr. When people follow that link they will discover other photos. Flickr provides statistics on the number of views. It’s satisfying to see a peak following an event:

Flickr stats, April 2014This peak, of over 8,600 views in a day, was from the B-HARD vs SOFT game :-)

Flattr this!

Snapshot

Back in July I stumbled across some photos of jewellery on Facebook. They were, I’m afraid, not terribly good. I sent a message to the group that had posted them and offered to go and take some better ones, free of charge.

I was pleased that they didn’t take my criticism the wrong way and I ended up falling into a conversation with them. I never got to take photos for them; those taking part in the jewellery class took their items home. We did though talk about the possibility of my running a photography class for them.

Skip forward three months and that is now going to happen!

The sessions will be on Tuesday evenings, 7pm to 9pm, from 26 November to 17 December, at Cup Cakes Coffee House in Sowerby Bridge. There is a £25 one off charge for those wishing to take part. Call 07762 884 135 if you’re interested. They are being run by the Phoenix Heights Community Group. They have a website, Facebook page and Twitter account.

Flattr this!

Speed

One of Imogen’s friends, who is also doing photography in sixth form, posted that she is saving for a camera. Specifically a Canon 5D. In keeping with the tradition of Canon/Nikon rivalry I considered posted that auto correct had changed ‘Nikon xxx’ to ‘Canon 5D’.

I set about researching equivalent models in the Nikon range. The nearest I found is the D800. The criteria I used to judge ‘similar’ were sensor size and price. But the more I read, the more I think that at this price point, Canon has the better camera.

The Nikon is cheaper and has a higher resolution (36Mp) sensor, so surely it’s the better camera? Well, maybe for some uses, but I feel it fails in two respects, both a direct result of going for a high pixel density.

Because the sensor elements are smaller they are less sensitive. The ISO equivalent range is therefore shorter than the Canon and at the high end noise becomes an issue. Second, because there are more pixels, the processing engine has to work with more data. This reduces the frame rate to 4 frames per second.

I then did some reading around the current Nikon DSLR range. I have a D300, the current incarnation of which is the D300S. It’s the only DX model (ACP size sensor) that Nikon have in their “professional” range. Professional seems to equate to similar electronics to the base FX model, but with a smaller sensor.

I continue to be very pleased with this camera. It’s capable of 6 frames per second, 8 with the external battery pack. Reading through the technical specifications of the current range the only camera that I’d consider replacing it with is the D4. This is unlikely to happen any time soon as it’s Nikon’s flagship model and costs around £4,300!

Flattr this!

Photographer?

A fellow photographer posted an interesting article asking “Does Photo Editing Dilute True Photography?”. It raises a number of questions that are now swimming around my head demanding answers.

In camera

Lynda uses a term “straight out of the camera (SOOC)” and argues that there is no such thing. I see what she is saying, but I disagree. From the reading I’ve done on the way that digital cameras work, they are somewhat more complex than a lens focusing light onto a sensor. I recall that Canon had a problem (with the 5D?) that caused image defects under certain extreme conditions; it must be quite a complex process.

I would hope that I could pick up any digital camera and obtain a similar result from each. There will be differences, the closely guarded proprietary secret algorithms used to convert sensor data to (usually) JPEG. So all digital cameras do some processing to convert light to a digital image. The processing is done in camera and there is little that the photographer can do to influence it.

Except that the photographer can influence it. With an SLR the photographer can alter the image. They can change the exposure level, add flash, change white balance, effectively crop the image by changing/zooming the lens. Even point and shoot cameras allow the image to be captured in monochrome. All of these changes are “in camera”.

Post-processing

So, is there anything wrong with altering images once they leave the camera? I don’t think that there is, images have many difference uses. If a camera provides the easiest starting point to create an image then so be it. So, as Lynda asked, is photo-editing just a cop-out for the untalented photographer? I don’t know. So I asked myself this:

If you were asked to judge a photography competition then (1) what would be your submission criteria and (2) how would you score the submissions?

Would your entry criteria be point and shoot cameras only? No post-processing? Colour only? Would these criteria exclude a potential Ansel Adams from entering? So what if you allow printed submissions? The film photographer gets a second bite (or nibble perhaps) to influence the image when printing it from the negative.

Pre-processing

D.O.G.So would you allow monochrome submissions to the competition? Would the photographer be allowed to use coloured filters? These can significantly alter the way the camera “sees” light. Is this pre-processing??

Might the composition of the image be considered pre-processing. The image to the right doesn’t truly represent what I could see when I took it. In front of me, out of frame, was the horse box. To my right a wall, my left the steps down to the field. I may have set white balance to daylight, but that’s because cameras struggle with that (see my previous post Whiter than white).

Okay, so I think most would agree that the photographer should be allowed to point the camera where he pleases! But what about a different lens?

One of my favourite photographers is Henri Cartier-Bresson. He is best known for his candid street photography. He used a Leica with a 50mm lens. He didn’t crop the captured images. He never used flash. He didn’t post-process during developing/printing. In 1957 he is quoted as saying:

Photography is not like painting, there is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative, oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever.

Perhaps I shouldn’t call myself a photographer?

Flattr this!

More!

A recent lesson that I’ve learned is to take more photos. I say “learned”, but it’s something I already knew; I suppose that we all need reminding of things occasionally.

I was at #thinkvis, a day ahead of the event, to capture the pre-party. Dom (@theHodge) had put together a stunning pick ‘n’ mix for attendees. He wanted photos of it, so that’s what I did.

I took plenty. From different angles, with and without flash. Then I had an idea. I could take a whole series and stitch them together to make a panorama! So I set about that, creeping along the floor on my knees, taking a shot every few “steps”. How I wish I’d taken more!

Stitching them together took hours. The perspective change between images was such that I had to correct each of them three times (three sections in each). It would have been easier if I’d taken a few steps back and used my 20mm. It would have resulted in less work, and the image would have been cleaner, but it would have been much smaller too.

So, don’t hold back, you can always delete the images you don’t want, just make sure you capture them when you have the opportunity.

Pick 'n' Mix

Flattr this!

Whiter than white

AlienSomething that all digital cameras struggle with is white balance.

In order to judge “white” the camera needs:

  • a white object in frame
  • white light

Humans do a pretty good job of interpreting white. We have knowledge that cameras don’t. We recognise the objects for what they are and this gives us hints about the colour we expect them to be. But even we struggle sometimes; the colour of cars under sodium street lighting for example.

I’ve found that it’s often best to set white balance manually, though this needs care too. I have on occasion set the camera to daylight when I should have chosen cloudy, resulting in a blue cast across images. Auto generally seems to work well when flash is being used.

The PRE setting

The D300 has an excellent tool in helping set white balance. By setting white balance to PRE and then d0 you can take a measurement of “white”. Upto 5 white balance measurements can be stored and named. This is a really handy feature. I have measurements for rooms around the house so that they can be quickly recalled.

The K setting

Sometimes you won’t have a white object to measure off. By setting the camera to “K” you can force the white balance to anything you like. The default value is 5000k, which is sunlight. I used this setting to take the photo above. I wanted to capture the true colour of the light without the camera trying to correct it.

Flattr this!

Check your settings!

FM3aOne of the first lessons that I learnt!

For many, myself included, the road to digital SLR is paved with point and shoot cameras. These default to auto everything; aperture, shutter speed, ISO and white balance are all set by the camera.

The default for SLRs is the opposite; the photographer sets everything. I soon found that the photographer also needs to reset everything. The one that frequently catches me out is white balance.

The D300 has many menu options but also a neat feature called “My Menu”. This menu is made up of other menu options that the photographer uses often. My menu includes:

  • Set Picture Control – which would normally be set to Standard
  • White balance – usually Auto
  • Non-CPU lens data – ’cause I still use AIS lenses
  • Flash cntrl for built-in flash – I can never remember where it is otherwise
  • Dynamic AF area – sometimes useful

Flattr this!

Hello

In February 2009 I bought a Nikon D300. A beautiful digital SLR camera. I thought long and hard before choosing it. As I already had an FM2a and a few lenses I stuck with Nikon. I’m so pleased I did.

Digital is different to film. It allows you to take lots of photos at zero cost. Plus you get to see the photo right away. I used the camera more than I ever used my film camera and it has become a main hobby.

Towards the end of 2009 I stumbled across Project365. The aim of the project is to take a photo every day. In doing so you:

  • learn about the features of your camera
  • have a visual record of the year
  • hopefully improve you technique and produce better photographs

I have to say it’s hard work. I often get to the end of the day (occasionally a little before midnight) and find myself scrabbling around for something to photograph. (Perhaps not the aim of the project, but it happens.) That said, if you have a camera that isn’t getting the attention it deserves then I highly recommend giving it a go.

Flattr this!

Wet Dogs

Sunday was a lovely day. I woke a little before seven, saw it was fine and went out to take photographs. I ended up going to Hardcastle Crags, near Hebden Bridge. I was very pleased that I did.

Slow splash #1As I got to Gibson Mill I found three ladies out with their dogs. The dogs were having a wonderful time playing in the stream. They kindly allowed me to take photos of the dogs, which I did and how. In a little under ten minutes I took 201 shots, JPEGs, equating to approximately 1Gb of data.

This gave me a chance to experiment with the continuous shooting mode and focus tracking features of the D300. It was a sunny morning and I was using my 85mm 1.8, so speed wasn’t a problem. Thing is, I had no idea what shutter speed I should use.

Looking back at the photos I see had selected shutter priority and started at 1/40th of a second. This gave a good effect in this photo, but it doesn’t freeze the droplets. I tried 1/100 of a second and must have checked the results on the camera as I very quickly changed the ISO rating to 800 and set shutter speed to 1/800th. This forced a wide open aperture and did a pretty good job, as illustrated here.

Retrieval #3The main splash isn’t frozen but the droplets above the dog contrast nicely with the darkness of the stream. This gives the shot action.

I was also very pleased with speed of my camera. I checked the times of one sequence and found six shots within a second.

One final lesson is to always zip your camera bag shut. I did and was glad that I had. Inquisitive wet dogs really don’t mind what gets wet :-)

Flattr this!