Silk Purses and Sow’s Ears!
I have had another day at home so no travels to write about but I have heard the buses going past all day long …
I should start with Dog’s constitutional this morning. We set off as usual (although later) and as we got towards his stubble field I could see that they have grubbed out a section of the mature beech hedge (right about where the hedgehogs liked to nest) and there was a JCB digger working away which meant the pavement was narrow and barriered. Dog was excited – he likes big vehicles and is always trying to get on passing buses – and tried to stick his head through the barrier to get closer. He was obviously not impressed! I walked him further on and to a small playing field and he was really quite anxious all the way until his stubble field came back into view. It is a real nuisance that they are doing this work now and putting a road through there; we have walked there ever winter since we moved here and I have some lovely photos of the frost and the sunrise through the fir trees at the bottom as well as many happy mornings watching deer. It is the perfect distance for Pup’s first outings while we instil the discipline of what morning walks are all about … so now I will have to rethink that and fast.
I got quite a surprise yesterday when I wanted to add a photo to the sidebar of the blog – I typed “East of Scotland Megarider” into Google and some of my blog photos appeared in the images listing – as high up as page 4. So I was able to use my own picture of the bus for what I wanted. Today I looked at “Tayside Megarider” and I have photos appearing on page 2 of the images. Anyway that got me thinking about all the photo editing I still need to find time to do so I have made a few simple edits which I am going to share today and explain how I made them better than the raw material.
I am going to start with this little waterfall. Firstly I am often asked how I have got an effect when photographing moving water; I am not really a fan of he blurred effect in most cases and so I simply set the fastest shutter speed I can manage to use and focus on a solid object immediately close to the water stream. Holding the focus I move the lens to compose the picture and then take the picture of the moving water.
In this first example it hasn’t worked very well from behind the waterfall AND the pool has a horrid preformed plastic liner – net result this image has the wrong focus entirely since the eye is drawn to that beige liner.
In this one I have moved round to the front of the waterfall; the liner is still there but a little less in your face but there is a pipe that is distracting now and the background is uninteresting … so …
I have made a square crop which makes the distractions less and keeps the focus on the stream of water which definitely looks much better from this angle and there is some splash in the pool.
So what next?
Isn’t that bench a distraction? I had another portrait view of this but the bland grey sky spoiled that … so … again a square crop to focus on the lovely structural plants. Some would argue that I could have reduced the depth of field to allow the bush with white flowers to be out of focus but I quite like that as is – matter of taste I think in this case.
And another with these gorgeous red hot pokers … and some water.
So in the original I have caught the pretty reflections of the red flowers but I also have the distracting edge of the pond which means those reflections are not really shining out and everything is lost in the background shrubbery!
A tight rectangular crop this time makes a huge difference …
One of my top tips is take lots of photos; even when I think I have got the focus perfect, etc I will find odds and ends wrong – a bird flying out of shot or similar. The one below is a crop form another taken at the same place but form a slightly different angle so no red hot reflection. This crop then is intended to connect the structural shapes of the grass and the red hot poker plants.
Leaving the gardens at Barn Hill now what about when the day is grey and overcast and no matter what you do (assuming you didn’t have a fancy bag full of filters with you) your pictures are grey and lack impact too? I have used crops here too – but I have done an extreme crop to a letterbox proportion. I really like this proportion and it works particularly well for the blog.
In the first I have made the two groups of people the focus; they are not doing anything unusual or exciting but we can relate to the everyday family activities and the umbrella tells us something too. I have added a black frame but if I was going to ‘mount’ and frame this for my DeviantArt site I would be editing it in The GIMP (free editing software) to add a large slate blue surround which I would distress to look like real slate.
In the second I have used the Lifeboat pier to echo the Tay Bridges – they were too far away to take pictures of in the misty conditions. I was careful to leave the slipway in because that links to the lifeboat and the row of gulls overseeing the whole thing adds character. Finally I used the colour of the lifeboat to add a frame (I would possibly make it smaller but kept it the same as the other photos for appearances on the blog); a really useful technique for framing digital images.
Finally I spotted that this rather grainy image of the kite surfers included a bird flying as if it too was one of the kites with all the other gulls sitting on the foreshore watching the display. It is not a technically good image but the humour makes it worth salvaging and I have just added a neutral grey border as an example.
These next two are a comparison; I did edit the first one – it was even darker than it is here because I had got the settings on the camera wrong for the light conditions. However just after taking these shots there was a total downpour and so for me this first one is actually more real to the experience I had … brooding heavy clouds, limited aerial perspective (in non technical language this is the effect you see when you look at distant hills and they appear to be varying shades of blue fading as you look further away).
In the second version – unedited – it doesn’t feel right for the experience and there is a horrible effect on the left hand horizon which is where there was sun flare through the clouds.
Since it was stormy I really like the effect in this picture of the kites giving the story of the strong winds coming down the Firth. I decided not to crop this because it would lose the heavy cloud at the top.
And I think when I used this one before I did crop it and it was certainly a smaller photograph I included. Here the pull of the kite is felt and the line of that pull echoes the angle of the foreground which contributes some welcome colour without overwhelming the subject. The other reason for including this without an edit is on my theme of arriving at places from a different direction. I had never made this journey before this visit – but now I have done the walk several times in the opposite direction and it takes me on that journey back to my beloved Barn Hill Rock Gardens past all those groynes which I have come to know quite well.
So even if you get home with a camera full of less than perfect images very often with a little thought and some simple tools they can be transformed into something useful … many of these wouldn’t make the grade for my DeviantArt page but they are okay for a blog or for showing people snaps of a day out. There is another way I might use some of these images – to make a collated image, rather like a scrapbook page … I will work on that for another post to share with you what I mean.
My other activity today has been mapping – I am making maps of some of the walks because I think there might be interest in a series of leaflets or booklets that offer walks that can be accessed fully by bus and that offer several different lengths of walk within the same route. This could allow a family of several generations to do some of the walk together with those seeking a shorter walk taking the bus from a point part way and meeting up again at the end point. It also offers the advantage of not having to sort out getting back to a car and finally it offers a way for people to improve their health and fitness over several versions of the walk.
I am wondering:
- whether GP’s would be interested in promoting this sort of walking for health (preventative health and self management – both hot topics);
- whether Community Councils might like to be involved in supporting the maintenance of essential facilities in some remoter areas;
- whether the bus companies would be interested in promoting these to folk who traditionally don’t use public transport, thereby increasing bus use;
- whether Local Authorities will adopt them as promotion of tourism (s0me of the current walk leaflets they publish are a wee bit dated); and
- whether all/any of these groups would take up a challenge to walk-test these routes and leaflets on a sponsored basis? Why well the individuals get healthier and have fun; sponsorship could raise funds for charities and the tried and tested walks are more likely to be adopted by the public
I know I have enjoyed the walks and I know they are readily accessible to many people … but like those many people I had no idea how much there as to see so close to home.
Finally I revisited a site I haven’t been on for ages www.justfortheloveofit.org This site is encouraging all of us to share the skills we have rather than simply reaching for our wallets to buy something. There are some serious freeconomists in the forum who know ways to save money and even not spend any money; who embrace different lifestyles to possibly many of us are used to. For some this is a difficult concept but I would love to have a simpler lifestyle without some of the pressures that materialistic expectations bring with them. My real interest is in how communities can share skills to keep themselves healthy – I have been guilty of not participating very much so I will try to do better in future and see if I can connect with some of the local members over the coming weeks.