Lensbaby at Castle Howard

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A while back I bought a LensBaby lens. It's great fun. To adjust the aperture you fit little metal disks with different sized holes in them. And you can move the entire lens about on the front of the camera to get strange focusing effects. 

We went to Castle Howard today. Lovely place. I decided to leave the LensBaby on the camera to see what kind of results I got. Quite fun.

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Misty Morning at c4di

Got up bright and early to go and work down at c4di today. I've got all my robots set up there now (they've got plenty of space, which is nice) and I wanted to work on remote configuration of robot settings.

I was up so bright and early that the car was actually frozen solid. And as I drove into town a clear bright morning turned into something a bit foggy. But this did make for some nice photographs when the mist cleared a bit. 

 Some seagulls 

Some seagulls 

 c4di looking shiny

c4di looking shiny

Dirty Lens Blues

I took a good look at some of the photographs that I took yesterday and I noticed that parts of the image are a bit blurred. So I checked the lens surface and I was shocked by the amount of gunk on the glass. I don't remember wiping my nose on the lens (ugh) but It sure looked as if that was what I'd been doing. The lens was filthy and it was only after a bunch of wiping that I managed to rid of the muck.

I'm not a big fan of lens caps, it seems to me that they are a great way to transfer dust from the inside of your pocket to the surface of the lens, but I'm going to have to be a bit more careful in future. Although the pictures haven't turned out too badly.

A break in Bristol

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I've got the painting finished and the next step is to sort out the laminate I'm fitting in place of carpet. I always new there'd be a floor in the plan....

Anyhoo, bad jokes aside, we've headed to Bristol for a few days of being in a house that doesn't smell strongly of paint. As you do, we went for a walk around town and managed to climb Cabot Tower. It has a tiny spiral staircase to the top which gets quite exciting when you meet someone coming the other way. 

However, the view from the top is worth the tricky climb.  You can click through the picture to see the whole panorama in its glory.

Hull Photography Festival

If you are in Hull I strongly, strongly, STRONGLY urge you to get down to the ground floor of Princess Quay Shopping Centre in the middle of town and take a look at the awesome photographs there.

I knew that there's a photography festival in Hull around this time of year but I'd no idea just how great it is. There are loads of exhibitions and also a whole bunch of special events over October which are worth taking part in if you're any kind of photographer, or just like looking at a lovely pictures. 

If you head to Princes Quay you can pick up a beautifully produced programme for the month. Alternatively you can get a look at the program here

Bendy Lenses at Folly Lake

More programming today. But we took a break by heading to the Folly Lake Cafe for lunch. I think they do the best chips in Hull. But I'm biased. They taste like the ones my mum used to make.

Anyhoo, the food was lovely and the day was very pleasant. And I'd taken  my Lensbaby, a simple lens which you can tilt to play with depth of field and whatnot. To adjust the lens aperture (the size of the hole that lets the light in) you drop in metal discs with different sized holes. And it has the ability to make very interesting images with selectively blurred bits. Great fun to play with. 

Out damned spot..

So we're staying in this awesome flat in Bridgeport Chicago and I notice that the ceiling light is rather neat. So I tip my camera onto its back and take the above picture. 

And a huge lump of dust drops off the back of the lens onto the camera sensor.

So now every photograph has a grey dot on it (you can see it on the shot above to the right of the centre). 

Now, the rational part of me knows that this doesn't matter at all in the great scheme of things. Really. But the other, stupid, part of me will focus and obsess on this little grey mark, panic that the camera is now broken and it will never be right again. 

Eventually I did the right thing. We wandered down to Central Cameras in Chicago (an amazing camera shop) and I bought a rocket. 

I don't know who's idea it was to shape this dust blower like a rocket, but it works for me. The good news is that a couple of puffs at the sensor from this wonder machine and the dust has gone completely.  I held the camera upside down while I did this, so hopefully the dust has dropped off completely. At least I've managed to convince myself that this has happened.

I've now formed the habit of dusting the base of a lens before I attach it to the camera. And the word on the street is that the sensor in a digital camera is actually quite well protected, certainly not just a naked piece of silicon, and cleaning it is reasonable (and not particularly dangerous)  thing to do. 

Graduation Fun and Games

I've been helping with graduation ceremonies for a while as a Graduands Marshall. Each year I try to take a picture of the audience. This is the effort for 2016. I've used a very wide angle lens to get everyone in. The results are a bit dark (sorry, there is not a lot of light in the hall), but you should be able to find yourself. You can click through the image above to find a larger one on Flickr and go exploring.

This was my final graduation ceremony as a member of staff of the university, and I'm very pleased to have been given the chance to do it. It's a matter of great personal pride to me that for a long time  I've been the first person to present to prospective students on the Open Day and the last person to present to them at their graduation ceremony. 

HDR Projects 4 Professional for Twenty Quid

 Whitby Abbey looking good

Whitby Abbey looking good

StackSocial is a place where they sell stuff at nice prices. I first came across them when they were selling Lytro Illum cameras at a very knock down price. But only in America, chiz chiz (chiz is a Nigel Molesworth word meaning cheat or swindle - as any fule kno). 

Anyhoo, I've bought a couple of items of software from them at very attractive discount, the latest being HDR Projects 4 Professional. The software is very, very, good. HDR usually needs several images which are taken at different exposure. But this software will also take a single exposure and do a tone mapping job which is almost as good as using multiple shots. It has lots of presets and works very well. 

If you are interested in making your pictures that bit more awesome, and particularly if you use Photoshop and Lightroom, this package represents great value at only twenty quid. 

Free Photographic Filters

It is rather strange that, having invested in cameras and lenses that give the most true to life images, we then invest even more in filters to make the pictures look lo-fi again. But we do.

The good news is that one of these filter packs has now become free. I've no idea how Google ended up selling a bunch of high quality filters for Photoshop and Lightroom, but they did. And now they've made the filters free.

The Google Nik Collection of filters is well worth having. There are some noise reduction and HDR ones among them which are OK, although these kind of things are probably done at least as well by some of the built-in features of Photoshop and Lightroom. However, the vintage camera and black and white filters are lovely. The set used to represent reasonable value at 85 quid. For free its a steal. 

Burnby Hall Tulip Festival

I'd not heard of Burnby Hall until this weekend. They are presently having a tulip festival, and number one wife wondered if I'd fancy going along an taking some pictures. 

Would I just.

So it was into a bag with a goodly assortment of lenses, tripods and kinds of other paraphernalia (that's the great thing about photography - plenty of scope for paraphernalia) and then off down the road to Pocklington. 

It was lovely. We got there nice and early when there was a bit of an angle to the light and it was nice and quiet. It's a great place to visit. Good food, good weather (at least today) and lots of tulips. We saw loads of families with picnics making a proper day of it. And there was even a brass band at 2:00.  

Not sure they've fully grasped how Secret Gardens work though....

Kodak Photo CD Fun and Games

Twenty years ago, when I was still learning how to take photographs, Kodak Photo-CD was supposed to be the next big thing. Keeping photographic negatives and prints was going to be so old-fashioned in the new, wonderful, digital age. 

Of course I bought into it. I got four or five rolls of film encoded onto this magical, future-proof, media. Of course, twenty years on all my prints and negatives are still around and usable. And the Photo-CD? Well, if you dig  around long enough you can find a program called Irfanview which will convert the files into something you can view again. I spent a happy hour or so this evening getting a bunch of pictures of the disks and passing them around the family.

The one above came out sort of OK, although I seem to have got a perfectly focused foreground and blurry background. So, twenty years ago I was still making the same mistakes I'm making today, just with a lot less technology to help out. 

Photomatix Pro and the Mysterious Drive D:

 Tone mapping bananas....

Tone mapping bananas....

Sometimes I write blog posts to remind myself how to fix problems that I hit. In a couple of years I'll search for this problem and find this post. And then fix the problem again. 

It's happened before. 

I love Photomatix Pro. I use it to make my pictures a bit more interesting, and to create HDR shots. It works very well. Except that for the last week it's been crashing out when I try to save the image. Turns out to be my external plug-in memory card reader. If that is connected it gives what Photomatix thinks is a drive D: that doesn't actually exist. This does not end well, but if I unplug the reader it all just works. Yay.