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. 

What use is an old, cheap lens?

I've been playing with old lenses on my camera for a few weeks now. And yesterday I spent a massive 19 pounds on another one. This is an elderly, but still excellent, Canon zoom lens, probably from the 1980's. It has that lovely zoom action where you pull the barrel towards you to zoom in. One of the things that a long focal length lens will do for you is compress perspective, flatting everything together. You can see the effect at work above, where the church, which is actually quite a lot further away than the other items in the picture, looks a lot more prominent in this picture of Cottingham lights. Great fun. 

The lens also took a pretty good picture of part of our tree. 

In Praise of Older Lenses


I've got myself another camera. Surprise. And I'm definitely going to sell all my old ones to pay for it (now that would be surprise). The bad news is that the lenses for my latest acquisition look to be rather expensive. The good news is that very old lenses for it are a lot cheaper. 

For around ten quid you can get an adapter that lets you fit lenses from yesteryear.  And it turns out that way back in the past they weren't just better at making music. They could make some amazing optics too. I picked up 55 mm Canon prime lens from Ebay that is a fraction of the cost of a modern lens, with image quality which is top notch. The picture above has been heavily tweaked in a way that tends to hide the sharpness of the lens, but take it from me this thing is pin sharp. 

My new/old lens doesn't have any of the new fangled features such as auto-focus or automatic aperture adjustment. But it turns out that I really like that. The camera viewfinder does a thing called "focus peaking" where it outlines the sharp parts of the picture in yellow. And adjusting the aperture manually means that I get to preview the depth of field in the picture and see how well the subject has been isolated from the background. 

It seems that you can get lots of adapters for lenses from way, way, back - even for old Leica lenses from the thirties. If you fancy testing your understanding of photography a bit and you have a camera that supports interchangeable lenses I'd say it was worth having a go with some old glass. 

Hull Fair in the Golden Hour

Photographers talk of "The Golden Hour". This is the hour around sunrise and sunset when the light from the sun is scattered just so and you get some nice lighting effects. It's not really an hour, and it varies from day to day and where you are on the planet, but if you are going to take pictures of Hull Fair I recommend trying to arrive around 6:00 in the evening when, if the weather is right, you can get a little bit of golden hour goodness.

We went on Wednesday and headed straight for the big wheel. Which this year was really big. I had my fisheye lens for the maximum coverage of the scene and I'm also playing with a plug-in filter for LightRoom (the program I use to import and manage my photos) that converts the fish-eye view into something like a normal wide angle. I'm quite pleased with the results.

Lensbaby Fun

My Amazon delivery came up trumps today, so I toddled down to the union and picked up my package. Then, when I got home I got the adapter out and attached my Lensbaby lens to my Fuji camera. As you do.

I've had a Lensbaby for a while. It's a "bendy" lens that you can move around in its mounting to change the way that images are focused. Turns out that if you put it on the camera and then point it at the ceiling you can get some interesting results after a bit of image processing.

Winchester Cathedral

Since we were just down the road from it, we took a trip to Winchester today. Lovely town. Got a great big cathedral in the middle. Yesterday we were in Salisbury, today Winchester. I reckon this is cathedral country. 

Anyhoo, it is a lovely place. It is huge, with a fantastic atmosphere. It is also the resting place of Jane Austen and there is a lovely memorial to her. 

They also have some fantastic stained glass windows. I had a go at taking pictures of one or two. They are surprisingly tricky to get right. I ended up taking different exposures and then merging them to get something that looks reasonable. 

Fun with Lens Extension Tubes

For a while these stick on jewels and bits and bobs have been floating around the house (not literally, that would be scary - they've just been in a little jar on a shelf). Anyhoo, I thought I'd try to take some pictures of them. I bought some extension tubes off eBay some time back and I wanted to see if they work.

You can use extension tubes if you have a camera which uses interchangeable lenses. The tubes fit between the lens and the camera and have the effect of drastically decreasing the focus distance, making it much easier to take pictures of tiny things. The tubes usually come in sets of two or three, which you can combine to get different focus distances.

These are a rather racy red colour, which is nice I suppose, but the important thing is that they preserve all the electrical connections between the camera and the lens, so that focus and aperture control all still work. You can pick sets like this up on eBay for less than twenty pounds or so, and they are fun to play with. Make sure you get the set that matches your type of camera.

When you start to use them you'll discover that you can focus very close to things (beware of bashing the lens into the thing you are taking a picture of) and that the depth of field (the range of parts of the picture that are in focus), is very shallow. You can address this by adjusting the aperture, try using F8 or so, but then you'll need a lot more light.

I take lots and lots of pictures with the camera on continuous shooting, and rock slowly backwards and forwards during shooting so that the focus changes. Then I go back and pick the ones that I like the best .If you use a larger aperture (F4 or so) then you can get some interesting effects where not all the picture is sharp.

The tubes worked fine, and I got one or two shots that I'm happy with.

Plane Rainbow

As we were in the shuttle bus out to the plane to fly back last night there was the most amazing rainbow over the airport. When we got off to head into the plane I threw all my bags down on the concrete, grabbed the camera and took a few shots.  I'm quite pleased with the composition, although it really had nothing at all to do with me, and everything to do with dumb luck.

The over eager dog that is Lightroom

Some software drives me nuts. The kind I'm thinking about is the stuff that is useful enough to be indispensable, but actually really annoying to use sometimes.

Such as Adobe Lightroom. Lightroom is a fantastically useful program for managing your photos. If you are a serious photographer, you use Lightroom. It's that simple. I only started using it a few years ago, but it has transformed the way that I work with images. And just about all for the better.

Unfortunately though, it has a few problems. Sometimes it is a like a big, helpful, over-eager dog that is always trying to do the best for you. And most of the time it succeeds. But sometimes it does insane things.

Take, for example, importing pictures.  This should be easy. Find the folder where the pictures are, and then copy in all the ones that aren't in the catalogue.

Except that whenever you click on (or perhaps even wave the mouse near) a folder at the start of an import Lightroom insists on running off and seeking out all the images in that location. In the entire directory hierarchy. Even though there is absolutely no need to do this.

And it always thinks I want to import from the SD card that I keep plugged into the Surface. So when I start importing it proudly displays a whole bunch of clipart I'm never going to want to look at.

What I'd love is for someone to come back to me and tell me that there are magical options that can be used to turn off this rather daft behaviour. Any ideas folks?

Flickr Magic View is quite, er, magical

I've been hosting my pictures on Flickr for a long time. When if first came out Flickr was genuinely revolutionary, with unlimited online storage for subscriber's pictures.

Unlimited storage is pretty much the norm these days, and Flickr has been a bit left behind by other, fancier sites. But of late they've done some rather nice things. If you've got a Flickr account (paid or free) you might want to take a look at the new Magic View option in the Camera Roll part of your site. It does a rather good job of working out the subject of your shots and then itemising them.

I'd no idea I'd taken so many pictures of birds.....