1-a-day

In 2013 I set out to take and upload one photo every day of the year. It wasn’t always easy but it did get me thinking because one of the rules I imposed on myself was that it had to be a picture that I felt meant something, rather than just a random snapshot taken out of the window as the deadline loomed. This year I will be doing the same exercise again.

I wrote in 2013 that it would be risky, as I tend to lose interest if I don’t stick to the rules; should I miss a day it will be hard to carry on. So no pressure there, then!

This year the rules will be the same – 1 photo for every day. I have decided that there is no need to upload the photos by midnight on the day. If I’m away from home it might not be possible. But for each of the 366 days this year, there will be one meaningful image. Meaningful to me, of course.

Below is today’s, which has also been uploaded to my Flickr account, which will be the default location for publication of the photos. Wish me luck!

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Trials of Geek and Rufuscam on Fairwood Common

Trials of Geek

I’ve written before about the loneliness of the single cinema goer. Yesterday, I went to see the New Star Wars film, ‘The Force Awakens’. I heartily recommend it to any fans of the original film. But going to see it on my own involved that dreaded interaction with the person behind the counter. who will inevitably form an opinion about me based on the lack of partner/kids/mates in the party.

Yesterday was worse. I chose to go and see the early showing and when I got to the cinema, it was empty apart from one other man. We waited until someone turned up to serve us. He went first and asked for the same showing of the same film. When I got my ticket, the assistant kindly told me that the screen room would be pitch black until the film started. She didn’t give me a knowing wink or a smile but both were implied. I disappeared off to the shops to wait for the film to start.

When I got to my seat, I found that the assistant had given me the seat right next to the guy who had been in front of me buying his ticket, even though the room was only half full of people. Thank goodness the lights were on.

It was a great film, full of what made the original Star Wars film special.

 

Rufuscam on Fairwood Common

This morning we went out early ahead of the predicted storms and torrential rain (which as I type have yet to materialise). I took the little camera Rufus uses and his harness and unleashed him on the woods on Fairwood Common. I was really surprised to see how well he’d come on with his photography. While I was faffing about with settings and framing and whether to use black and white or colour, he was quietly selecting his viewpoints with little fuss.

I took the camera and harness off so that we could throw and chase sticks. There was lots of barking and running around and it was great to see him unhindered by his weaker right knee. The vet told me I have to be careful not to let him twist it, but in everyday use it should be fine. I’m careful not to let him overdo things, and I think his climbing over rocks and boulder days are behind him, but running on even ground seems to do him no harm. As I type, he is snoring in the hall.

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Deliberate Movement

This morning, it was time to get out early before the rain set in. Or so I was told by a wide awake hound at 6.30am, 7am, 7.15am, 7.16am, 7.19am and then, after a short period of snoring, at 7.45am. The wind was howling but despite thick grey skies, there was no sign of the rain that had been promised. So after a brief breakfast interlude, we were off to Fairwood Common.

I had an idea to take some long exposure photos of the trees moving in the wind, so along with me and Rufus and the camera, I took a tripod and an ND 1000 filter. I was picturing images of sharp, solid tree trunks and blurred upper branches but when I got to the woods I was surprised to see how strong the wind actually was. Most of the solid tree trunks were also moving. Woods are not the safest of places in high wind but after checking the trees, I was reasonably happy that nothing was about to fall on us.

While Rufus explored in the leaves and mud, I set up the first of several exposures of between 20 and 30 seconds. The filter is so dense that I have to compose and focus before hand as there is nothing visible through the viewfinder. It slows the picture taking process down, which is fine and is something I need to do. I was pleased with the results in the viewfinder and the previews afterwards. These kinds of photos are hard to plan perfectly as the movement of the trees is random, so for each set up I took several exposures to get some choice over the final results.

By the time I’d take three of four different set ups, Rufus was getting a bit bored. I could tell by the way he sat next to the tripod and stared at me with his much practised puppy dog eyes look. It worked; we moved on and he got a small biscuit treat for his trouble.

Finally happy with the pictures I’d taken, I put the camera and tripod back in the car, and we went off for a proper walk which included barking, running, chasing sticks and following mysterious scents borne on the ever increasing wind. By the time we’d explored the whole area, it was staring to rain and it was time to head off back home.

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Work in progress – by Rufus

I told you about my new camera in this post. Since then, Dave (my human) has purchased a new harness just to let me take photos, and I’ve been experimenting with angles, viewpoints and settings.

Today we went off to Mynydd Carn Llechart for some more physio for my leg, and I took the harness and camera along. It was a beautiful morning, clear and cloudless, crisp and cold. Ideal for some landscape work. I’ve been concentrating on candid photography recently so this chance to take more considered images was most welcome. There was a cold wind on the hill, and more than a trace of snow which had fallen overnight. Under paw it was soggy and wet but it wasn’t too bad and I soon got the measure of it.

The sun was quite low as it was still quite early and we were walking directly towards it. This made some of the shots I tried quite difficult to take without under exposing the foreground or getting too much flare in the final image. I noticed that Dave was taking quite a few photos so I decided to take some of him taking pictures. I checked out what he was snapping and it was his usual and predictable snow covered mountain shots so I wasn’t missing anything significant.

We got to the cairn that gives the mountain its name after about half an hour of splashing and squelching across the moor. I went for some close up images of the stones while Dave was distracted by a pair of Red Kites wheeling about over head. When he’s not distracted like that he tends to get in the way of my photos, usually to steal my view point. I welcomed the chance to work unhindered.

We didn’t hang around long as the wind was still quite chilly. Heading back, the sun was behind us and the quality of light was lovely and warm. It cast long shadows which we were constantly walking over.

I’m quite pleased with my day’s work although I am still learning how to make the most of the low viewpoint I am usually faced with. So please view this gallery as a work in progress.

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Rufuscam – by Rufus

So,

I am finally able to unleash my creative talents and challenge Dave for the title ‘Best Photographer in the House’. How is this possible, you ask? Well, he who styles himself the second coming of Ansel Adams has bought me a camera. He didn’t actually realise this when he did it. He thought he was buying it for himself. But it’s small and light and with one of the many plastic things he got with it, he can attach it to my harness.

Me and the harness have a love hate relationship. It’s okay, but I prefer the collar. I have dominated the harness by biting through part of it, so it now understands who is the boss. Dave witters on about how he can attach me to a seatbelt when we’re in the car and I can see the benefit of that, but it used to dig into my armpits a bit. Not any more! A side effect of my recent injury is that I’ve lost weight and as a result, the harness is more comfy now.

This morning, Dave attached ‘his’ camera to the harness and unleashed me on the garden. It took a bit of getting used to; I banged it against the door as I was going out and the look on Dave’s face was a picture. My harness was loose due to my new slim look, you see, and the camera slipped sideways. But I managed to get some nice images and for once, I was able to get photos of Dave just like he always gets photos of me. So now we are equals.

After a swift check up at the vet, (apparently I am looking fantastic and the healing process on my knee is going really well), we went off to Tor Clawdd this morning, where I fully expected to be able to take more photos but for some reason, Dave didn’t bring my harness. I was disappointed but tried not to let it show.

Dave has said something about a more comfy harness arriving in the post soon. Watch out for more of my works of art when that arrives.

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Adventures in the world of slow

After yesterday’s fun in the snow, today was always going to be a little slower. And in a triumph of wordplay, I decided to head off to the River Tawe to start using slow shutter speed techniques with my 10 stop ND filter on the waterfalls.

As if to confirm the slow nature of today, a selection of Sunday drivers littered the roads. It’s not just their inappropriate use of speed I dislike, it’s the generally poor standard of driving that comes with the Sunday driver; braking hard at the speed sign rather than slowing to meet it, failing to indicate and wandering all over the road to name three. All three of these were in evidence today.

At the river, we wandered and strolled, occasionally stopping for me to take long exposure photos. Slightly more occasionally, we stopped for Rufus to catch little stones, chase them into the water and for him to bark at me if I got anything wrong with either activity. Things that count as being wrong are:

  • Not throwing a stone
  • Throwing a stone in the wrong place
  • Taking too long between stone throwing
  • Taking too long to operate the camera
  • Not handing out enough treats

He’s a good teacher though, and is never slow to correct me if I make mistakes.

Before we knew it, we’d been out for over an hour. The clouds were beginning to peep over the hills and the temperature was starting to drop again as the sun became obscured by the first signs of the approaching rains. So we set off back to the car. I was surprised at how far we’d come along the river, which is well below the level of the road, and it took a little longer to reach the car than I had expected.

Our journey back included encounters with a driver who seemed to indicate at every roundabout junction, but never acted on the indication. I actually got quite good at anticipating where he was going by the position of the car on the road. Despite his attempts to run me off the road, we arrived home and settled down to a day of slow.

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Rufus and Dave’s Fortnight of Fun part 1:River

I was worried about Dave this morning. I woke him up as usual at 5.30, 5.35, 5.40 and 5.45 am and then again at 6am. He let me out in the garden but went back to bed. It’s not how it should be. He’s meant to be up at 6 and making me breakfast before disappearing off for a few hours to somewhere he calls ‘Work’. (He calls it other things as well but I don’t understand those words). But this morning he went back to bed. I didn’t know what to do so I woke him up again at 6.15, 6.30 and 6.45. He didn’t shout at me and in the end, I gave up and joined him on the bed.

He finally managed to rouse himself at 7.45! Layabout! He didn’t seem concerned that he should have been at ‘Work’. Instead, he seemed quite happy and jabbered on quite a bit. After breakfast, he asked me if I wanted to go out. Silly question, he knows the answer. We set off and very soon I realised we weren’t off to Gower. It took a lot longer to arrive at our destination and when he finally let me out (he tends to fuss a lot after he parks the car), I found we were at the River Tawe. He knows it’s one of my favourite places and since my little operations he hasn’t allowed me anywhere near water. Clearly today would be different (whether he planned it or not).

As soon as he let me off the lead, I was in the water. It felt so good to paddle and cool my paws off. The sun was warm and it was lovely to be out here again. I was happy, and I let him know I was happy by barking in my happiest voice.

Dave had his camera with him so I knew I’d be able to explore the river for myself, and play games with him by standing in front of the camera just as he knelt down by it. Sure enough, every time he went to take a photo I was able to get a reaction from him by popping up on the waterfall or in the water near by. He loves this game almost as much as I like catching stones. I did need to bark sometimes just to remind him why we were here but generally speaking Dave behaved himself and we both had a good time.

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Seeing things in a new light

This is an unashamedly technical post. For those of you turned off by nanometres and transmission filters, other blogs are available.

A couple of years ago  I took the plunge and invested in an infra red converted camera. Since then I’ve learnt to understand the best conditions and subject to apply infra red to, and I’ve experimented with post processing.  I had my Nikon D300 converted to record infra red images in 2013. I love the effect, particularly when post processed into black and white images. This post is about the basics and is based on a presentation I recently gave to my local camera club.

The nanometre bit

Infra red light is invisible to the naked eye and has wavelengths starting at around 590nm and stretching on to 1000nm and beyond.

 

Most digital camera sensors are so sensitive to ultra violet and infra red light that a special filter is placed in front of them to cut this light out. Converting a camera to take infra red photographs is simply a case of replacing this filter with one that blocks visible light and transmits infra red. That’s what I had done to my D300. It gets a little more complicated because there are different filters available to allow different wavelengths of light to pass through (in the same way that coloured filters allow different wavelengths of visible light through). My camera has a 720nm filter, (which blocks light of wavelength less than 720nm). Sensors to pick up heat energy are a completely different beast and are not dealt with here.

As a converted DSLR camera doesn’t need a transmission filer on the lens, you can compose and focus as normal. The image in the optical viewfinder remains bright and in visible light. To see the effect of the internal filter you will need to use live view. If you are using an unconverted camera with a transmission filter, you will need to compose and focus with the filter removed as by it’s very definition, the filter will block out visible light.

My D300 was calibrated for focusing and exposure by the company that converted it (Protech repairs). I still find that when faced with different subjects, I need to adjust the exposure from the indicated values and a degree of trial and error is sometimes required. You’ll always find me reviewing the image immediately after taking it.

Effects

The sun emits as much infra red light as it does visible light and so it is possible, with a converted camera, to use exposure times similar to normal. The classic infra red effect – white vegetation and dark skies – happens because green leaves reflect a lot of infra red light but blue skies do not. Scientists use infra red photography to spot growth and dead vegetation in the landscape. Contrast can be high in these photographs and you have to keep this in mind when taking the shot. Water also absorbs infra red.

Infra red light penetrates skin slightly and this results in a a soft, blemish free appearance in portraits. Eyes tend to appear black. The longer wavelength of infra red light is less affected by haze and pollution and so landscape photographs appear clearer and crisper.

Flare can be more of a problem as most lenses are designed to be used with visible light. The lens coatings and internal coatings that reduce reflections aren’t as effective with the longer wavelengths. Some lenses suffer from ‘hotspots’, a bright central portion which varies (and may disappear altogether) with a change in aperture. Of the collection of lenses I’ve gathered over the years, about half exhibit a hotspot with the D300.

Lenses that work with 720nm Infra red and a D300 camera:

  • Nikkor 60mm macro
  • Sigma 10-20mm D f/4-5.6
  • Nikkor 50mm f/1.8
  • Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 (manual focus)
  • Nikkor 24mm f/2.8D
  • Nikkor 70-300mm AFS f/4.5-5.6
  • Tamron 90mm macro
  • Tamron 18-270mm
  • Vivitar 19mm (manual focus)
  • Sigma 170-500mm

 

Results

below are a set of photos I took this morning. I’ve been experimenting with additional filters progressively the shorter wavelengths. This is very much a work in progress.

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Man Porn

Haha! Three thousand extra hits already, thanks to my clever title, and I’ve only just started typing this blog post. The power of search engines and that four letter word!

So, we all know what porn is. Don’t we? (If not there are a number of good, and not so good, sites on the Internet that will help explain it to you). But what about Man Porn? Well, depending on his (or her – Man Porn is gender neutral despite the title) particular interests it could be a car, lorry, train, plane, yacht, oven or vacuum cleaner (I knew someone for whom a particular vacuum cleaner was an object of slightly more than desire). And most importantly, I am not here to judge. It matters not what your particular ‘thing’ is. We are all adult and the world is free so unless you are causing harm or suffering (in which case, shame on you), be happy with, and celebrate, your particular item of Man Porn.

This post started because I’ve started working on my bathroom again and noticed that I had three power tools and lots of accessories for them, and all of it was strewn around the floor. It struck me that power tools were probably a form of Man Porn for some. I actually don’t like them but I appreciate them for the labour saving devices they are. I have the same approach to computers. I don’t really understand them but they do what I want them to do (for the most part) and they have an off switch.

I shall bare my soul to you now and reveal my objects of desire. Those who have read previous posts may be able to guess at some of them.

Cameras. Well, technically, any nice bit of photographic equipment really. A camera just does what you tell it to do and records what it sees in front of it. Nothing more. So how can it be an object of desire? I guess it’s a combination of look, how it feels in the hands (let’s be clear – size does not matter, okay?) and the satisfying clunk of the shutter. Interestingly, although the quality of the final image is important for photography, it doesn’t count on the Man Porn scale. I have several cameras and they are tools. I have one or two that are more than tools. They look nice, feel comfortable in the hand and they inspire me to take a particular kind of photograph. In the case of the DSLR, it’s the combination of lens and camera that works for me.

Musical Instruments. Guitars, actually, although I can well understand how someone would feel about an antique violin or piano. I find it hard to think of a modern keyboard as an object of desire and I’m not sure why. My first thought was that it was to do with the organic feel of a guitar made of wood, but that’s not it – the cameras I hold in high esteem are all metal, glass and electronics. So it must be look and feel – sensory stuff. My all time favourite guitar has been and remains the Gibson Les Paul. I love the shape and curves and the weighty feel. It had a fabulous smell of glue and wood. I owned one for several years and it made me learn to play better. I like the bass guitar I play in the band at the moment, an inexpensive Ibanez I got second hand. It’s rapidly becoming an object of desire, so it’s not monetary value, either.

Cars don’t do it for me, although I can appreciate a good looking vehicle. Neither do planes, bikes or boats, although the yachts racing for the America’s Cup this week are pretty cool. I don’t want one, though. It wouldn’t fit on the pond in the back garden.

So, what is your Man Porn?

Prepare for some Man Porn in the photos below.

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