Category Archives: photography

Flickr inspiration

A lot of people who aren’t that much into photography think that I make amazing photos. I don’t. I just make a lot of photos. Then delete most, because they really suck. I publish those that suck slightly less. Read on to see photos that rock.

I’ve been spending time on Flickr and would like to present you few of the many great photographers I follow. I believe these are the best of the best. Don’t forget to click to see moar and bigger pictures!

Aremac

Aremac is the master of colours, ideas, simplicity and clarity.

Handrail with shadow Looking up!

Dropped Tree Friends

Deep Tracks Steigleitung Trocken

Brickstone Personalities Crossroad

Sister

Sis is nuts. She wins photo contests. Not flickr contests – real contests with real prizes, judged by famous photographers.

ladybug Fragile flower

Snow in Brno Sunrise on a meadow

just for fun.. Striped

Spider's beads Splash

Jason Lee (jwl)

Some people insist that children photography is boring. Jason shatters the myth.

101 uses for gaffers tape Laundry day

pumpkin Big & Small

If I lived under the sea sea sea...... Mirror Mirror on the wall....errr grass

What's cookin? Dinner Time

Lady Tori

I’m a sucker for good bokeh. And Lady Tori delivers the highest quality.

It's not easy being green Pure Morning

Cold Wishes Filling The Day With Joy

Break You Down Vintage Life

Soft Dreams Misty Morning

Ben Heine

…of the pencil vs. camera fame.

Symphony Urgent Landing

Pencil Vs Camera - 30 Pencil Vs Camera - 29

Pencil Vs Camera - 19 Pencil Vs Camera - 3

Pencil Vs Camera - 11 Pencil Vs Camera - 12

Katarina

A bit over the top kitschy HDR. But Katarina can pull it off better than most.

Endless view A new day-winter landscape

All's well Over the mountains and the sea.....:)

What if the world would have two suns... :))) Lunar world

Sky arc II Green velvet

It’s just six amazing photographers, but the post is already getting too long, so I’ll cut it off.

If you want more, go see images of Mattijn, Monkeyman, Dimitri Depaepe, James Neeley, Miguel Rita, Sparth, isayx, kktp, Cornel Pufan, Philip Klinger or Ali Shokri.

Exposure bracketing

I have an old Canon 20D. I’m pretty happy with it, the large pixels behave well in low light conditions and it’s got reasonably comfortable handling. There’s just one thing that’s been really bothering me, and as far as I know, all the other cameras suck just as much as mine.

Exposure bracketing was implemented by someone who hates HDR, photographers, and humanity altogether.

I use continuous shooting mode (hold the button down and the camera keeps shooting as fast as it can until it chokes). First, I have to press the button and hold it for exactly the right amount of time to get three pictures. In the beginning, it used to give me a headache, but after some time I got used to it. It’s stil an inconvenience, but a rather minor issue.

There’s something I don’t get at all: Why do I even have to shoot more pictures to get more dynamic range?

If the wonderful RAW format had for example 32bit depth instead of 12 or 14, we wouldn’t need bracketing at all! You would just take the longest of the exposures, and the camera could record all the data without overblowing the highlights. Or, if that is too much hassle, it could make 3 “virtual” RAW files — by simply taking a snapshot of the sensor’s state at three different times during the single exposure.

Given the amazing feedback I’ve been getting here lately, I don’t expect an answer. But I do wonder — is there anything in the way? Or are camera manufacturers incompetent?

PS: Yes, HDR is an instrument of the devil. If you look at my recent pictures, you might see that I realized that aready. But sometimes, sometimes I like to go to the dark side…

Earth from above, in black and white

On my way from Korea back to Europe, I had an amazing flight.

My original flight got cancelled. But Finnair quickly found a ticket with KLM for me. Direct flight to Amsterdam.

When getting the ticket I asked for a seat next to a window. I thought that the guy didn’t understand or care what I said. He seemed completely oblivious to my request.

But as you can see, I got the seat next to the window.

The weather was great. There were amazing clouds as we flew over the yellow sea.

This is somewhere in northern China. That’s what the flight attendant told me.

The Gobi desert.

Slightly cloudy.

Patterns. If you look closely you can see few roads down there.

I’m really happy with how these pictures turned out.

This flight, especially the amazing Gobi desert, was one of the strongest experiences in my life.

PS: You can view bigger versions of the pictures in my photo gallery. Also, check out my flickr photostream.

Korea, here I come

My blog is dead. Long live my blog!

My plans have changed. I am going to Korea for three months to study go. Then I’m going back to Amsterdam, almost moneyless, to begin the new life.

You can have a look at amazing amounts of new photos.

The EGC was mostly eneventful. After a promising first week, second week was a small disaster.

I am in Amsterdam now. I love Amsterdam.

Tomorrow, I’m flying to Korea. I was urged (by several people!) to put some info from Korea here — I will try not to disappoint you.

Good night.

LSG 2009, pictures, and my life in general

LSG has ended. It was too short but a lot of fun. I’ve made about two bazzilion photographs, which I’ve managed to reduce to just 212. You are invited to see pictures from LSG 2009. They are mostly portraits, as I’m still in love with my Samyang 85/1.4 and I mostly refuse to use the kit 18-55mm lens.

You might be also interested in my gallery from Warsaw go tournament, or more generally in my pictures from the year 2009.

Again, I have no time to write much more, but hopefully all the pictures will keep you interested for a while. European Go Congress is coming up shortly, so I’m not getting a break in go nor in photography… And then — well, there’s time to slack off, travel, play go, make pics, drink vodka, and have fun, and then there’s time to work. Time to work is getting close, and to my own surprise, I’m sort of looking forward to it. :)

DSLR — first impressions

I’ve wanted a DSLR for a while. At first, I wanted to buy an entry level camera like Canon 1000D, but after I found out that the price of a used Canon 20D (semiprofessional camera, about five years old model) was considerably lower than price of 1000D, I just had to buy it.

1000D has more megapixels, but that’s about where the advantages end. 20D is more sturdy, has better handling and controls, rubberized grip, bigger viewfinder, higher frameburst rate (5 shots per second) and better high iso performance.

I decided to buy two lenses (neither money nor space for more :-)). The first one was the kit 18-55mm with IS (maybe buying used lenses isn’t such a good idea… but hey — it was cheap). As the second one, I originally wanted to buy Canon 50mm f/1.8, but I wanted also a little longer lens (I already have 50mm covered by the kit lens) and after finding the new Samyang 85mm f/1.4 with manual focus, it was an easy decision. That said, I’m still fighting with getting the focus right (it is very very hard, as almost everything appears in focus in the viewfinder… I wish I had live view and could zoom in to get preview of focus).

I am really happy with the high iso performance. With Canon 20D at ISO 3200, the noise is somewhere between ISO 200 and 400 on my point & shoot Canon A590. Five shots per second is very useful whenever you are shooting something moving unpredictably (kittens!).

I hope I haven’t become an equipment-theoretician freak yet. :)

Square thumbnails — are they evil?

The first time I saw square thumbnails (ie. thumbnails which are downsized and cropped to square) I thought they were the best thing since sliced bread.

The advantages of square thumbnails are obvious:

  • they are really easy to align and never mess up your layout
  • the layout will look more uniform and better than with irregular thumbnails
  • they do not show everything so they invite the visitor to view the full sized picture

But there is a downside. Square thumbnails alter the composition of the picture. In some cases, when the photographer hasn’t thought much about composition, it can often actually improve the picture. But in other cases, when the composition is deliberate and well thought out, the square thumbnail can destroy it completely.

I use square thumbnails in my photo gallery (have you seen the pictures from my recent cross-country skiing trip?). And I keep wondering whether I should change it to normal thumbnails (normal = scaled down so as to fit into a given rectangle while preserving the aspect ratio).

Do you personally prefer photo galleries with square thumbnails (cropped) or with normal ones?

LSG 2008

“What took you so long?”

Yes, I’ve returned from LSG a week ago. But I spent all my time either at work or creating the photogallery (I made over 800 pictures but my memory card got full so I had to delete the bad ones, I returned with over 650 pictures and the gallery is 187, so — as you can see — it was a lot of work).

LSG was great (you can see mroe photogalleries), and I really regret having to wait almost 350 days for the next one again. Last year when I came home from LSG I just sat there for several days doing nothing and waiting for the next LSG. Luckily, this year work takes care of that, it’s really good to have something concrete to do.

Sorry for a boring post, hopefully it was at least short enough. :-) (and hey — it included links to photos… by the way, my favourite pictures from my own gallery are 4, 32, 94, 100, 109, 149, 152, 176, 178 and 181)

Tone Mapping with GIMP

“Tone mapping reduces global contrast in images while increasing local contrast and shadow/highlight detail.” or so Gimp Addict’s Tone Mapper tutorial says. Go and read his tutorial, I will add few comments to it:
4) “radius of 100-500 is good” — yes, it usually is, but since we don’t know the size of the image, I’d rather say that 10% of image size (that is (width+height)/2) is a good starting point.
5) 75% is again a good starting point, but you might want to play around with the value.
7) It depends… if you want to increase the tonemapping effect, duplicating the “soft light” layer is the way to go (I’ve tried changing the layer mode and nothing else really worked at all).

So I wanted to create a script that would do this. After searching the GIMP Plugin Registry, I found Tone mapping script, which basically follows Gimp Addict’s guide. However, it only has two options – the amount of blur and the amount of layer transparency. That certainly isn’t enough for me. Luckily, the plugin is GPL…

(((GIMP’s Script-Fu) uses Scheme) (which is (a dialect) (of the (Lisp (programming language)))) ((Lisp is a (programming language)) (for people) (who (really (really (like parentheses))))))

And because I like parentheses almost half as much as an average Lisp programmer, I rewrote the Tone mapping script and created Advanced Tone Mapping script. Feel free to put it in your GIMP’s script directory (~/.gimp-2.4/scripts/ in my case).

There are four parameters for Advanced Tone Mapping script:

  • Gauss. Blur (% of img size) — is the amount saying how much the blurring should be used for the tone mapping. It is in percents of image size (where image size = (width+height)/2). Ten is a good default, but different values might be interesting too.
  • Opacity of blurred layer — this is the 75 default, which can be changed if you want stronger or weaker effect.
  • Opacity of merged layer — the default is 90. If 100 is not enough, consider increasing number of “copies of merged layer”.
  • Copies of merged layer — when one, it’s barely noticeable, you can deny any accusations of postprocessing easily. :) Three has a lot of “halo effect” and anything above five will completely mess all colours up.

The first set of pictures is simply a preview. The image on the left is the original image, and the image on the right is processed by Advanced Tone Mapping with Gaussian-blur set to 10, opacity of blurred layer equal 75, opacity of merged layer full 100, and finally three copies of the merged layer (note the way I use to show those values — it is also used for naming the layers, which can be handy if you later forget which layer is which or what you have done). The image on the right might be a bit over the top, but it shows nicely what can be done with Advanced Tone Mapping script:

Tone mapping

The next example shows some pretty conservative tone mapping. The one on the left was created with almost none blur, while the one on the right has 10% blur. Note the difference: the one on the left has no halo but appears a bit flat, while the one on the right has a slight halo but also has higher level of detail.

careful Tone mapping

Oh my… the following example shows what can go wrong with tone mapping (I’m sorry for all the people who already gouged their eyes out). The reason why image on the left appears so flat and awful is that almost no blur was applied. The image on the right is a comparison with healthy blur applied. Five copies is still a bit too much, but hey, at least it has kind of action-like look.

Tone mapping gone wrong

The last image shows the difference between the default blur and maximum blur available. As you can see in the right side picture, the halo is so huge it’s almost impossible to see. The bad news is that with maximum blur we lose a lot of detail near the borders of light/dark areas.

Tone mapping different halo

Ok, that’s it — now go and experiment with my script on your own photos. 8-)

PS: Underexpose your images — the dark areas can still be lightened, while the burned out areas are usually completely white and can’t be darkened.

PPS: The more contrast there is, the more layers you apply, the more blur you will usually need.

PPPS: Any kind of noise in your picture will be greatly amplified.

PPPPS: No, this is not HDR, this is just tone mapping of a single image (just jpeg, in my case). Tone mapping is a part of HDR, but HDR is not a part of tone mapping. ;)

Mostly unordered list of photography tips

For newbies, by a newbie.

  • It doesn’t really matter what kind of a camera you have (ok, no cell phone camera, you need some kind of a lens).
  • Most modern cameras can decide the exposure settings just fine in 90% of cases. Nevertheless, you should learn to operate in manual mode too (for example, the closest distance my camera is able to autofocus at is about 15cm, using manual focus makes it about 2cm (it used to be my dad’s camera and he thought for two years that 15cm was the closest it could do)).
  • Flash is evil. (funny, exactly the same rule applies in webdesign)
  • The only exception to the above rule is using flash to light nearby dark objects in an otherwise well lit scene.
  • If you do not have enough light, feel free to increase the ISO speed. Or bring a tripod. Or emulate it somehow (don’t forget to use a short timer to avoid touching the camera when it fires).
  • By far the most important thing is the composition. (there are also other good resources about composition)
  • Actually, there are no rules for composition. But it is still the most important thing.
  • Postprocessing is your friend. (the examples here use GIMP, but similar techniques will work in other image editing software too)
    • Three alternative ways to do a Very Important Thing ™:
      • the easiest and fastest: Colors > Levels > Auto (this works when you have both real “white point” and “black point” in your picture)
      • slightly more control: Colors > Levels, and play with it (you usually want to leave the output levels alone and shrink the input levels according to the histogram, you can set this individually for each color channel)
      • and finally: Colors > Curves (this is like Levels but with more control — you do not only set the starting and ending point of the curve, you can also change its shape (slight S curve often improves the image a lot)
    • Orton effect (aka dreamy look): duplicate layer > Filters > Blur > Gaussian Blur (set something reasonable depending on your picture size, experiment) > set layer mode (multiply, overlay, hard light, or whatever… experiment) > set layer transparency (uh, guess what… experiment?)
    • Tone mapping: duplicate layer > duplicate layer > Desaturate > Invert Colors > Gaussian blur > Layer opacity to cca 70 > merge layer down > set layer mode > set opacity
    • Vignette effect (aka lomography): new layer > E (elliptical regions) > select accross the whole picture > invert selection > Select > Feather (set to something reasonable, experiment) > fill selected area with black > set opacity (usually 20 or so)
    • And while all these effects are great, try not to use all of them at once. :-)
  • Finally, publish your photos on the internets (flickr, picasa, etc).
  • Flickr is still the best photosharing site around (even though they have the bloody videos now — which even started polluting Explore), it has the most amazing community and most talented photographers
  • By the way, all that I know about photography (ok, not much) I learned on flickr, just watching Explore, and sometimes reading the comments.

What a mess of a post. :-Z
On the other hand it does contain plenty of good info, it’s just a bit too much concentrated.