First Draft: Ready to go!

John asked what did he original Ready to go! look like and I’ll oblige now. Showing what the original photo looks like is akin to showing what the first draft of a written essay or post reads like. Sometimes the image comes out perfectly in the camera but that’s rarely the case. At the very least light levels have to be balanced and if resizing for publication online then the resized image has to be sharpened.

Hover over the image below to see what the original shot looked like. Hopefully this will work for RSS readers but if it doesn’t, visit the blog and leave your mark here!

Notice how I rotated the image? I had to reconstruct the bumper on the right of the picture, as well as filling in the gaps at the other corners of the photo. Tree branches and leaves are easy enough, as is the relatively solid black texture of the tar on the road, but the bumper was difficult, and the shaded area of the building on the left presented me with a few extra minutes of clicking to get right.

Want to see more “First Draft” posts? I can’t promise to do many, but if you have a compelling reason why you’d like to see the original of a photo I’ll do my best to help!

PS. Bryan – you might recognise the CSS. I took it from the button of doom you did! Hope you don’t mind!

PPS. Treasa has posted a tutorial of how she worked on two photos with steps in Photoshop to get the desired effect. Nice!

What tablet would you buy?

I’m in the market for a tablet to make my life using the GIMP easier. I’ve looked longingly at them in stores but my credit card stayed in my wallet and I resisted the temptation! Now, I’m seriously thinking of making a purchase and wondering which one to go for.

After some initial problems Richard Querin got his Wacom Graphire3 working and I know there’s the Linux Wacom Project but they’re not the only show in town. What about other manufacturers?

As a photographer, has using a tablet helped you? Has it made it easier to work on photos? Is it easier to apply large changes like dodging and burning a whole image?

And finally, red or blue pill?

Film Nostalgia

If you’re nostalgic for the days of film read the comments on Why not scanned film? by Mike Johnston. Plenty of people are still shooting film, developing it and scanning it in and doing it well. Film has some advantages over digital in capturing certain aspects of light, but so does digital. I can’t remember what those are, but I think film is better at recording highlights than digital, while digital, well, I don’t recall. It all has to do with exposure curves or something!

I went from a point and shoot film camera to the relative freedom of a digital compact camera and never looked back. I can certainly understand why people love the feel of negatives and chemicals and a process but I can’t see the point of it. Why do you shoot film and scan it in? Why not shoot digital and skip the tedium of scanning? The comments on Mike’s article have several varied and very good answers.

The recently held National Shield competition brought out a huge number of high quality entrants and at least some of that talent has been facilitated by the rise of digital capture. The barrier to entry has fallen and the world changed.

Ade: Buggrit. Maybe my highlights are blocked to hell and the process is tedious as owt and I’m wasting good shooting time that could be spent filling the card on my DSLR before wrestling with monochrome conversions in Bibble. I’m never going to use or care about a traditional darkroom and I don’t yet prefer digitally-captured B&W. So what, I like my inkjet prints from scanned negs. I just need another four hours in the day.

Later… if you must use a scanner, or are in the market for one, then the advice here may be of use to you.

Nikon D40 tips the scales in Canon vs Nikon fight

nikon_d40.jpg The recently announced Nikon D40 could be the camera that wins over the hearts and minds of a whole new generation of DSLR owners and it’s being released right before the Christmas buying season.

Why? For two reasons, price and brand. There are a number of digital SLR cameras in the sub $500 range; the Pentax K100D and Olympus E300 among them but the Nikon brand of digital cameras is better known. Canon don’t have any current camera to compete at this price range, yet.

What camera will parents buy their offspring this Christmas? The more expensive Canon 400D or the Nikon D40? I think it’s a no-brainer which camera they’ll buy. The Nikon is the perfect “starter camera” for junior. It’s relatively cheap, looks professionally black, makes the click sound when you take a photo like “real cameras” do and you can use other Nikon lenses. What is there not to like?

Well, the Nikon D40 is great but for the price there have been compromises made. The DP Review preview of the camera compares it favourably to the Nikon D50, emphasising the extra features the cheaper camera has. The biggest drawback is an issue with lenses. It can’t auto-focus with traditional Nikon lenses because it doesn’t have an internal focus drive motor. This is arguably worse than the Canon limitation on EF-S lenses. At least Canon EF-S cameras can take advantage of proper Canon lenses.

Perhaps the biggest negative on the D40 is that it doesn’t have an internal focus drive motor and hence no mechanical focus drive pin, instead it only has CPU contacts which means it can only Auto Focus with AF-S and AF-I lenses (those with built-in focus motors). Indeed our ‘standard’ lens the Nikkor 50 mm F1.8D (and the F1.4D) are manual focus only on the D40. The images below show the difference between the mount on the D40 and D80, the D80 has a mechanical focus drive pin at about the 7 o’clock position.

Canon need a sub-$500 DSLR to compete. Once you’re hooked on a brand of camera it’s much easier to stick with that brand. The controls will be familiar, you can use the same lenses, you visit the same online discussion boards.

Personally, I think it’s great that DSLR technology is so cheap. It’s not that long ago that the only digital SLR was priced beyond the budgets of anyone but the professionals. Isn’t Moore’s Law great?

Ken Rockwell has a great review of the Nikon D40. I think he likes it:

First impressions are:

Super-duper light weight = too much fun!

Why interestingness just got harder (to game)

It looks like Flickr have changed their algorithm to decide what makes an image interesting. I noticed this a few weeks ago when my number of interesting photos almost halved to 14 photos.

What has happened is that Flickr doesn’t count views and comments from certain groups on the site. Why? There are many critique and comment groups where members are asked to comment, favourite or view a certain number of other’s photos for every photo they add. In the past this has been a great way of getting your photo to the top of the Interestingness ladder but was obviously not always a realistic view of how good a photo is. I expect these groups will become less popular and groups on a specific subject will grow in popularity. New critique and comment groups will appear in an effort to outrun the Interestingness filter but I’m sure there’s a little “ban group” button the guys at Flickr can push so it’s probably a futile effort.

I’m disappointed, but also glad that this has happened because it may stop people dumping photos into groups, leaving short and useless comments and obsessing about popularity. What else can you do?

  • Tag every photo you upload with short descriptive tags. Don’t spam.
  • Upload one photo a day, or make sure the last photo you upload is your best, and/or looks good as a thumbnail. This image may have been so popular because the thumbnail had a strong X form.
  • Join niche groups and contribute photos and to discussions. Don’t dump photos and run. Participate in the group forums.
  • Apparently it used to matter when in the day you posted a photo but not now. I disagree. From the perspective of someone living in Ireland, if you post early in the morning and contribute to groups your photo may appear for longer near the top of that group’s photos. On the other hand, if you post later in the day you may get more immediate eyeballs but more photos will be posted too. It all depends on what time it is in the American continent. If your photo is particularly good then posting later in the day might be better.

Good luck, I’ll update this post from time to time with new tips when I come across them.

PS. I’m helping my brother Donal with spot prizes for his charity table quiz tonight. Can you help?

It takes more than fancy equipment

Every photo taken today is taken with a more sophisticated camera than classic photos taken years ago that everyone recognises. It’s not the camera, it’s the photographer. Sure, the barrier to entry has collapsed but talent counts and separates a snapshot from a work of art.

If you don’t believe me, then read today’s What The Duck! for a humorous look at this issue and don’t get hung up on buying expensive bits and pieces for your camera. Sometimes though, dumb luck helps.

PS. if anyone is worried that they’re getting obsessed wth purchasing expensive Canon lenses, especially L series ones, then give me a shout and I’ll take them off your hands. No, I won’t charge a penny for this charitable work. I just want you to get back to basics and take great photos!

Thanks Treasa for mailing me about the broken permalinks here!

The secret life of the Irish blogger

2006-11-06__mg_6390-m.jpg Haydn Shaughnessy’s article on blogging in Ireland is in today’s Irish Times. It’s a lengthy 3/4 page read and in the Arts section so it covers the artistic side of blogging more than the political or mainstream – photography, podcasting and video blogging are the main aspects of blogging that he treats.

Unfortunately the online version is subscriber only but here’s what he wrote about us photobloggers:

In fact, Irish bloggers excel at photography, and two of the most outstanding are the O’Caoimh brothers. Their record of changing Cork city and county are the kind of document we might look back on in a decade with some gratitude. The photographs of Ryan Whalley, meanwhile (, logging the Cork countryside and coast, are exceptionally well staged works of art and draw attention from around the globe.

In each case it’s their self-taught skills that make blogging a superior distribution mechanism than, say, the local photographic gallery. Is the Irish blogging scene vibrant and creative, as the photography suggests?

Ryan’s Glassey Alley photoblog, and my brother Donal’s blog are referred to above. One of the photos in the article is this one I shot at the Ceili Mor several weeks ago. If this is your first time to this site feel free to browse around and visit again. There’s a new photo here every day!