Happy New Year

Happy new year everyone, I hope 2015 year brings you all the things you wish for and for some of you, the things you deserve!

2015 is a science fiction year. When I was a kid, I read any science fiction story I could lay my hands on and a lot of them talked about the 21st Century (Gerry Anderson’s company, the one that brought us the original and best Thunderbirds, was called 21st Century TV). We have now passed George Orwell’s 1984, we are about half way through Wells’ “Shape of Things to Come” and we’ve passed two of the Arthur C Clarke Space Odyssey novels. We have devices that fit in the hand and connect us with all the knowledge of the world (although you still have to know how to access it). The only thing we haven’t got right yet is the interface to that device.

Of course, we also have people who claim to be experts in making the most of this device and its ability to communicate with the world. The world has filled up with experts, gurus, leaders in their field, and there are so many fields. There are so many of them that 2015 is likely to become the year of the expert expert and the guru guru. Who knows where we’ll be by 2016, but a speaker at a recent conference I attended said that the people who claim to be experts are undermining the professions to which they associate themselves because no one can know everything in enough detail to make that claim.

This time last year I was talking about exercise and I was in the last few days of training for my climb of Kilimanjaro. On 26 January, I made it to the top of Kibo – 5895m – and what a fantastic experience that was. But since then I’ve let the training go a little and although I now have a Rufus to keep me active, it’s not quite the same. And since, for he second year running, I have not given up chocolate, I suspect there is more of me than this time last year, particularly around my middle.

My photography stats

I ‘only’ took 12720 photographs in 2014. That’s almost 4000 down on the year before. I suspect (I hope) it’s because I’ve been a little more discerning and taken my time over each picture rather than machine gunning the views. That said, I took 1775 images on the Kilimanjaro trip alone. But almost a third of those were RAW copies so they don’t count!

Apparently, the photos in my catalogue for this year have been taken on 22 different kinds of camera, although some of those will be other people’s and some are HDR or panoramic images processed on the PC and designated as some unknown camera. Once again, 30% of the images have been taken with one camera – a Nikon D7100 – and 67% of those were taken with the excellent Tamron 18-270mm lens.

Understandably, given the trek, January was my most productive month with 2236 photos taken. I must have taken it easy while recovering in February when I took only 321 images. Looking at them, it was a month of bad weather so I guess I have an excuse. Most of the photos  from February were of huge waves crashing in at Bracelet Bay.

I took 399 macro shots, mostly with a Tamron 90mm macro lens. I think most of those pictures were of spiders in the garden!

All the best for the next 365 days!

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The devil makes work…

Tonight’s gig with the Insiderz has been postponed until next Saturday. Right now I would have been trying to remember what songs I need to practice for tonight, sorting out all the leads (they tie themselves in knots when I’m not looking) and making sure I eat early (so my belly isn’t bloated and doesn’t push the guitar out at an odd angle when I’m on stage). But instead I find myself with some unexpected free time. What to do?

I’ve done some trek preparation (8km with Rufus this morning, in the wind and occasional rain). I’ve spent some time with friends for lunch (I say lunch, I had a scone – that’s pronounced scown not scon. If you have scons they are entirely different beasts – with butter and cream). I’ve had a shower (the fox was complaining about the smell). I’ve checked the potatoes (some small holes in the leaves) and I’ve taken steps to prevent the bit of garden designated as the wild bit ( = bit I can’t be bothered to cut and weed)  expanding out to the veg patch. And I’ve had a coffee.

Idles hands and all that. So I fired up Lightroom (my new imaging editing and management software) and had a look at some of the menu options I don’t normally use. Those of a nervous disposition when faced with trivia should step back and perhaps jump straight to the pictures below. Those of you mildly turned on by figures – this is the closest you’ll ever get to porn* on my blog.

*Note – not real porn.

I found a sort filter in Lightroom that allows me to see the statistics based on camera type, lens type – even sensitivity setting. It means I can select a parameter and see all the pictures that meet that criteria. It even summarises the number of images by parameter. There are 21 parameters to search on. Try and control your excitement.

Where was I? Oh yes. Even I’m not sad enough to need to know how many pictures I’ve taken with in a landscape format (71,837) or how many have been taken with ISO400 sensitivity (12,395). But I was interested to see how many I’ve taken with each of my cameras.

According to the list, 69 different cameras have been used to take the 79,272 pictures in my library. This number includes the cameras other people have used (as some of those pictures have been sent to me by some of you lot), and the identity of the scanners used to digitise my early film efforts. The camera I have used the most is my Nikon D300 (8,852) which is the camera I had converted to Infra red last year. Then its the D7000 (7,841) and the Panasonic GF1 (7,464). I was surprised that the little Sony I carry round everywhere with me has only taken 4,771 pictures. I was also surprised to find I only took 1,366 photos with my first decent digital camera, an Olympus CZ3030. I guess some of those are the missing files I lost when two full DVDs of photos got corrupted a few years ago. I was also still using a film camera when I had the CZ3030. I’ve taken 335 pictures with my iPhone, and before that, 425 with my Sony Ericsson phone.

The most popular focal length is 14mm (5,054). My most productive year to date is 2011 (14,272). My favourite aperture is, apparently, f/8 (15,177 pictures). This is the setting I normally use if I’m not sure what ‘s coming up, so that isn’t so surprising.

I could go on but there is a crowd of people gathered on the front lawn demanding I stop or they will burn the house down.

I was interested in the camera stats as I have recently part exchanged several cameras to purchase a lovely new Nikon D600. In fact it’s so new that I’ve only taken 33 photos with it, the majority at f/16, in landscape format with a 90mm focal length and ISO 800… where’s that smoke coming from… no, I’ll stop. Put it out.

Sorry. I thought long and hard about this as I’d only really started using a full frame digital camera last year. But the benefits, especially image quality, low light performance and a properly controllable depth of field, were immediately evident. I had a rule of thumb when I got my first DSLR that I would only upgrade when the sensor resolution doubled. I know the megapixel count isn’t a full measure of a camera, but it is a good measure of the advancement of camera technology in general. I refer to trusted reviews and a lot of research as well.  I did slip a little with the D7000. But the D600 doubled the D700’s count and that, coupled with a good price, made it hard to resist. So I didn’t.

I haven’t had much opportunity to test the camera out yet because of the weather, but you’ll see from the Damsel Fly picture below, it’s got potential. In fact, the only thing holding it back is the thing that is holding it. Me.

Some photos from last week.

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New Year Photography

Warning: Geeky statistics appear below. If figures and boring photography stuff scares you, do not read on.

On the first of January, I posted about trying to improve my hit rate for photographs I’m pleased with and I quoted figures of less than 1% of the picture files I have I am actually pleased enough with that they would appear in a portfolio.

That got me worried, and thinking and I checked again, since that figure was so poor. If it accurately represented my photographic capability, it would mean a change of name, a move to another country and the instigation of Plan D – the anonymisation of Franticsmurf.

The reality is a little better. I’ve been sifting through all the files in preparation of a big back up. I’ve almost filled a 1Tb external hard drive and before it chugs to a halt under the weight of the data, I have to free up some space. What I’ve noticed is that every digital photo I’ve ever taken is there (with some exceptions from way back when a couple of DVD back-ups got corrupted). Until December 2000, I was only using a 1Mp Olympus camera and although there are some nice shots that I’m happy with, their resolution isn’t good enough to do anything other than display on a screen. There are 1300 of them. Until 2003 I was using film as my main medium and I carried a small digital compact as a snap shot camera. There are 2000 files of snapshots from this period. There are almost 2000 images of the band. They are almost all for record purposes.

I started using high dynamic range processing in 2008. This technique involves blending several differently exposed images of the same scene to record details in the highlights and shadows that wouldn’t normally be possible with one exposure and the limited dynamic range of the camera sensor. I usually take five photographs – 2, -1, 0, +1 and +2 stops. There are 255 tonemapped final images – around 1000 additional files varying the exposure.

I experimented with focus stacking a lot last year and that could be between 5 and 15 files per final image. That probably accounts for another 200 files. For the trek to Nepal in 2011, I shot jpg and RAW format, doubling the number of files I came home with. All my infra red photos are shot in RAW, and probably 25% of them have been converted to tif files for printing or display. Often I will shoot jpg and RAW if the subject matter is difficult or important. So I see I have 5106 RAW files.

Then there are the photos I take of Rufus and of my friend’s little boy. I set the camera to continuous shooting and fire away. I have said elsewhere that I tend not to get rid of any photos unless they are horribly out of focus or badly exposed. So these images stack up. Most are for the annual photo album I create for my friend. There are just over 9500 of these. Finally, as I carry a camera around with me everywhere, I tend to use it as a notebook and I’m always taking pictures to try out new techniques or to remind me of a location. I went out for a walk with Rufus this morning and took  38 photos. I deleted one as it was out of focus and the others, while not works of art, will be kept.

So only having 650 images that I am most proud isn’t quite as bad as it first seems. Nevertheless, I need to do better and my aim this year will be to make more time for serious photography rather than letting it take a back seat as I do at the moment. I’ll have to discuss it with Rufus.

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