How to short circuit

Ever since I posted Short Circuit I’ve been meaning to post a small tutorial on how I did it. There were so many comments from people clamouring to know the secret of how I made traces of light dance around the picture frame.

Actually, nobody asked. Will was kind enough to suggest another title but otherwise it went unremarked. *sob* I’m going to tell you anyway.

The image is a long exposure shot, of at least 1 second and preferably 4 or 5 seconds. I simply stood in front of a construction site at night, lifted the camera, hit the shutter and rotated the camera around in my hands. Needless to say, I did not have the strap around my neck or I would have done myself damage!
At first I tried Aperture Priority mode, setting the aperture really small (big numbers, around F/22), but then I decided to do the obvious, and used Shutter Priority and simply set the speed(time) I wanted. Below are a few shots from that night, including the scene as it was on the night and some experimental shots as I practiced. The technique is really easy, but can create some really interesting and eye catching photos.


Aperture ƒ/3.5
Camera Canon EOS 20D
Focal length 10mm
ISO 800
Shutter speed 1/10s

Doneraile Photowalk on June 8th

The month of June is going to be a busy and exciting one as the Midsummer Festival will be in full swing! To avoid clashes with any other event I think it’s better if the photowalk in Doneraile, Co. Cork be on Sunday June 8th before it starts at all.

Where: Doneraile Park, Co. Cork.
When: Sunday, 8th June. 3pm
Directions: Leave Cork going north through Blackpool towards Blarney and Mallow. Pass through Mallow and keep on the main road until you get to “New Twopothouse”. Doneraile town is sign posted there so take a right. When you get to the town go through it to the other side. You’ll see Doneraile Park sign posted. See the Google Map above, or check this one for the route.

Doneraile Park is a beautiful park with at least one river running through it, a small weir near the carpark. Deer and livestock can often be seen in some areas of the park as can fowl like ducks or swans. Doneraile House overlooks a large part of the park and is famous because a member of that household was the only female Freemason. The house was closed the last time I was there and I’m not sure if it’s ever open to the public. It faces north from what I can remember so you’d have to be there before noon to catch any sun on the front of the house.

If you’re going to blog about this, or post photos afterwards, please tag them “corkphotowalk” so anyone interested can find them easily!

More:

Cork Midsummer Festival

If you can’t make it to Doneraile on the 8th, there’s still plenty happening in the weeks after as the festival starts on the 15th and continues for 3 weeks. I’m particularly interested in the following, mainly because they’re outdoors, and as they are in public places, photography won’t be a problem.

  • Sunday, June 15th from noon to 6pm. The Lord Mayor’s picnic in the park. Fun and games and food stalls in Fitzgerald’s Park, Cork. I was there a few years ago. Lots to see, plenty to photograph, although we’ll have to be considerate of children.
  • Saturday, June 21st. Shandon Street Festival. Music and entertainment on the street all day. At 1pm in front of Brown Thomas there will be a Bicycle Ballet. It lasts 30 minutes. Must try catch both.
  • Saturday and Sunday, June 28th to 29th. Senszione. Sounds like a weird fairground with unusual looking rides. Unfortunately it’s at 6.30pm, 7.45pm and 9pm. Both earlier times are bad for me, but I’ll try for 9pm. Bad light then of course but it can’t be helped.
  • Saturday, July 5th. Robodock. IAWS Warehouse, Cork Docklands at 3pm and 8pm. I’ll be going to the 3pm show. Remember those weird iron sculptures in Emmett Place on St. Patrick’s Day? Lots more of them. The Docklands is due to be developed so it’s worth getting down there if for no other reason than to record something that won’t be able to happen there again.

I almost forgot. The Cork City Marathon is on Monday, June 2nd. Grab your place at the finish line!

Phew. It’s going to be a busy month!

Still waiting after all this time

On November 15th 2007 I took my Sigma 10-20 wide angle lens into O’Learys Camera World in Cork to be repaired. (I found out they were using some of my photos without permission too, but that’s another story. Read the linked post above!)
Several phone calls followed over the weeks after that. Eventually I was told that parts had to be shipped from Japan.

Roll on 5 months later to April 15th 2008. I rang O’Learys Camera World and got on to Andrea. She had to check my docket number and was gone for quite a while, during which time several members of staff tried to make phone calls. Beep, beep, beep and I’d wait for them to put the phone to their ear before saying, “I’m waiting on someone to check a docket for me”. After what seemed like an age, Andrea finally came on the phone again. She couldn’t get in touch with anyone and rattled off the same old story about shipping parts from Japan. She’s said she’d ring me back in 5 minutes after speaking to the repair shop in Bandon.

Oh, and that took almost 11 minutes to find out. Grrr.

A few minutes later she rang back. The repair guy is off today, she’ll be off tomorrow, but she’d leave a note for Declan to ring them again. Hopefully he rings me, and I have to wonder at the inventory system of a repair shop that doesn’t have a database a secretary can check ..

If I didn’t have Matt‘s old lens I’d be really pissed, but as it is I’ve been without an expensive piece of equipment for too long.

O’Learys Camera World – you screwed me over by using my photos to sell your digital photo frames without asking my permission. Now you’ve kept my lens for 5 months. Please don’t expect any business from me in the future once this debacle is sorted out.

Hopefully a few members of Mallow Camera Club will read this and pass the word along. I gave a talk at the club last night on educational websites. Here’s a list of the sites I covered. If you’re new to blogs, it’s a good starting point for any budding photographer.

Photowalking around The Lough

What: Photowalk.
When: Sunday March 9th at 3pm.
Where: The Lough in Cork City. (Google Map)
Who: Anyone with any sort of camera.

On Sunday March 9th, we’ll visit The Lough in Cork City on a photowalk around the lake. Of course it’s also a social occasion when we can swap camera tips and photography advice. Sunday is a slow day for many people so let’s aim to be there at 3pm near the bird feeding (south) end of the lake. Weather permitting, that gives us plenty of light for about 3 hours, and if people are still around later, sunsets over The Lough can be quite stunning. Bring family and friends too if you like, but remind them that they will probably be photographed and their photos may end up online. If you bring a dog, remember that they must be kept on a lead.

Nearby is the Hawthorn Bar. It’s literally right next to the lake and a nice place to go for a drink or a bite to eat.

All are welcome to come. It doesn’t matter what type of camera you have, or how good or bad you think you are. Photowalking is the perfect opportunity to practice and improve your photography and chat with like minded individuals. The Wikipedia page on photowalking has a good overview of what it’s all about:

Photowalking is the act of walking with a camera for the main purpose of taking pictures of things you may find interesting.

So far I have confirmed that Ryan and Donal will go, and sort of confirmed that David will be there. David was kind enough to announce the walk at the last meeting of Mallow Camera Club so I hope that a few members will participate.

I would be very happy if 5 or 6 people showed up. If there are more that’s even better. We’ll have plenty to talk about and there is so much to photograph you’ll be kept busy. Leave a comment on this post if you’re interested in going or have any questions!

If you’ve never been to The Lough, here are a few links that may interest you:

Don’t forget, if you’re in Dublin this weekend, Redmum is organising an Irish Blog Awards Photowalk on Saturday. I won’t be there but it should be fun to photowalk through Dublin City Centre!

How DIT’s “Iomha ’08” photo contest can hijack your rights

So, you’re all fired up and ready to enter a new photography content? Dublin Institute of Technology are holding a worthwhile photo content in the run up to Seachtain na Gaeilge this year. They are “seeking photographic entries on the theme of An Ghaeilge Bheo – Irish: The Living Language from both Ireland and abroad”. There’s a first prize of €1,500 which is not to be sniffed at!

Unfortunately if you enter, you’re giving up some of your rights as a photographer. From the rules:

14. Entrants will retain copyright in their submitted entries. However, by entering the competition all entrants grant the competition organisers a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual licence to use and publish each entry in any and all media (including print and online), for exhibition, publicity and any other purposes which the competition organisers in their sole discretion deem appropriate. DIT reserves the right to use the entries in the promotion and publicity campaign for the competition including exhibition and publishing of the images. All entries and entrants’ details will be securely stored.

What does that mean for you? Let’s say you have some beautiful shots of the West of Ireland, in an area where Irish is spoken. Like many people you’d like to make a bit of money out of your hobby. Who will buy your image? Tourists might, but competition is fierce and it’s hard to get the shelf space for your art work. What about Government bodies? Maybe one of those departments advocating the Irish language will buy it?
Good luck if you’ve entered that image in this competition. You’ve just handed DIT, Foras na Gaeilge, Oideas Gael and who knows who else the right to use your image in whatever way they like. You never know. Check the DIT Prospectus next year. Instead of paying money for a professional photographer they will have a ready made library of free photos to use, forever.

OK, before you scream, “Nutter! They wouldn’t do that!” I agree, they probably won’t, but DIT aren’t the only ones to do this. National Geographic have a Your Shot page every month where they invite photographers to submit their best images. Guess what’s buried in the tems and conditions of that contest? They’re not the only well known brand to do it.

Jim reminded me that even Facebook have some dodgy wording in their terms and conditions. How would you like that drunken picture of you singing and laughing at a bar with beer bottle in hand to appear in a Facebook advert? It could happen ..

Many photography contests have similar terms and conditions. Before submitting a photo, read the small print. Even if you never want to sell an image, it won’t be nice to discover a treasured photo used in an inappropriate way.

GIMP For Photographers: Levels

GIMP Colors Many people find using the GIMP or Photoshop a daunting prospect but in fact those packages are quite easy to use once you’ve practiced a few times. This will be the first in an occasional series to help photographers use the GIMP to post process their photos.

The Levels tool (right click on your image, select Colors, then Levels) is used to adjust the levels of the colours in your image by manipulating a histogram representing the image. In simple terms, you can make broad changes to the Red, Green, Blue and overall “Value” parts of your image.

The single most useful function of the Levels tool is the “Auto” button. Click that button and the histogram will be stretched out. Your image should look better. If the photo lacked contrast, it can suddenly become a lot “punchier”!

Here’s an example which will make things clearer.

GIMP Levels before example

This is a nice photo I took in Galway in 2005 with a Sony 717. Unfortunately, there’s a nasty yellowish sheen to the image. I probably shot this with the white balance set to cloudy. That can give a pleasing golden look to images but it’s not always welcome. The image also lacks contrast and looks under exposed. How do I fix that?

GIMP Levels

Fire up the GIMP Levels tool. Right click on the image, go to Colors, then Levels. This is the histogram for the image above. See how it’s all bunched into the middle? Now, click on the “Auto” button.

GIMP Levels after example

Wow! One click did that? The image looks so much better now! The swans actually look white and it’s brighter and shiny!

GIMP Levels

I opened the Levels tool again, just to see what effect “Auto” had on the histogram. Sure enough. It’s stretched from side to side.

Levels before and after
Before and After Auto Levels

Wasn’t that easy?

Advanced Usage
You may have noticed the eyedropper buttons next to to the Auto button. Those are “Black”, “Grey” and “White” selectors. Click on one of those, your cursor will change to a eyedropper and then click on the corresponding colour in your image. They work pretty well, but can be confused. If it all goes wrong, just click the Reset button, or CTRL-z to undo if you’ve clicked OK.

You can also manipulate the histogram manually. Just drag the sliders left and right until your image looks ok. You can change the channel with the drop down at the top of the Levels dialog. Changing individual channels does interesting “cross processing” things to an image.

External links:

  1. The Levels tool on gimp.org docs
  2. Levels Tool – white, black and grey to the rescue! – a tutorial I wrote about the levels tool back in 2004!

Want to know more? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear what you’d like to know and learn about the GIMP.