The West Ring

Lurchers, photography, and a bit more besides

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WordPress Automatic Upgrade

August 10th, 2009 by Iain · 2 Comments

What a fabulous plugin :-D   Having previously ballsed up a upgrade, I had been reluctant to upgrade WordPress and risk losing the site as a whole.  Fortunately I chanced upon the WordPress Automatic Upgrade (WPAU) plugin, and decided to risk it.  Worked a treat!

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Gallery – Slow Loading Thumbnails (Are No More!)

April 23rd, 2009 by Iain · No Comments

If you have had a browse around my gallery, you’ll probably have been annoyed by the fact that some of the thumbnails took an age to load. I JFGI’d but I just couldn’t find a reason.  Well, it seems that, by chance, I have found a likely candidate.

With the last two albums (Cricklade Walk and Puppy Party) I used a different method to upload the pics and noticed that all thumbnails loaded immediately, as they jolly well should!  It would seem that there seems to be some sort of issue with the Publish to Web from XP option, which is what I used previously.  With the new method, they fly.

The upshot is that I’m afraid that old albums will still suffer, but new ones will be whizzy.

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Puppy Party

April 23rd, 2009 by Iain · No Comments

We spent last weekend in the west country visiting my parents.  By sheer good fortune ;-) we were able to meet up with people for walkies on both days.  On the Saturday we met Alison and Nicky with their respective hounds in Cricklade and had a walk in North Meadow.  It’s a lovely place to walk, with plenty of room for the hounds to rarr to their heart’s content.  Pleasingly, I had a fair success rate with my shots so it’s hard to choose which to post here!  Obviously there are plenty more in the Gallery.

Rudi and his mini-me:
Rudi and his mini-me

Haggis does the Conga:
Haggis does the Conga

Lottie and Chester:
Lottie and Chester

Being the cruel, heartless owners that we are, we took Rafferty for another walk on the Sunday!  This one was the “Puppy Party”.  All of Rafferty’s siblings, and his mum and dad, gathered in Lydiard Park to celebrate the puppies’ six month birthday.  Obviously, I took the camera along :D Unfortunately some of the photography was curtailed when Rafferty, trying to be too clever and cut some of the other off, got clattered and cartwheeled through the air.  It didn’t look good when we picked him up – it appeared that he might have dislocated his hip.  Thanks to Martin’s ministrations we thought it might not be as bad as we feared and, after a bit of lead walking, Rafferty definitely improved.  At this point I decided that I wouldn’t be wracked with guilt if I got the camera out again!
One thing I did find was that with so many hounds (10) and associated owners it was very difficult to get a clear shot.  That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it! So, some pics:

Rafferty and Ember:
Rafferty and Ember

Bella (the bossy sister!):

All seven pups plus mum and dad:
A parade of pups

More pics in this bit of the gallery.

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Is It The CPS, Or Is It Just CRAP?

April 9th, 2009 by Iain · No Comments

Whilst having lunch the other week I had a bit of a brainwave.  Given that there are a number of keen photographers amongst my colleagues here at Charter, we should really get out and about together.  My thinking being that we could learn from each other.  In particular, I was curious to try and understand other peoples thoughts on composition.  What do they see?  What are they looking for?

I emailed the others and used the name Charter Photographic Society.  James’s name for it?  Charter Ring of Amateur Photographers…  The consensus was that we could start with some lunchtime meets and, once the days got longer, arrange for either morning or evening shoots.

For our first trip out we popped down the road to the local graveyard.  Wandering around I found I was looking for shapes and/or patterns whilst James and Stephen said they were both looking for detail/macro shots. 

After a few shots I put the nifty fifty on in order to try and achieve really narrow depths of field.  This seems to be something I’m very keen on.  Not entirely sure why; possibly just “because I can”!  In the shot below, I’ve actually focused a couple of gravestones in, hoping to get blurred ones before and after.  Hasn’t really worked, has it?!

When reviewing the above pic on the camera I could see that the DOF wasn’t nearly as “strong” as I hoped given that I’d shot it at f/1.8.  I mentioned it to Stephen and he very helpfully explained how the distance you are from the object you’re focusing on affects the DOF.  He then told me to get physically close to a gravestone and focus on the first letter of the word.  And bingo!

You’ll have noticed that I’ve converted two of the above photos to black and white.  I found that it vastly improved the pictures, turning something fairly dull and ordinary into something a little more interesting.  Plus it seems to match the subject quite well.  The picture below is my DOF experimental picture straight from camera.  

All in all it was a great way to spend a lunchtime whilst working so in honour of that I’ll finish with my fave of the set. 

There are a few more pics (and larger versions of the above) in the gallery.

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The Hawk Conservancy

March 24th, 2009 by Iain · No Comments

Courtesy of T4 Cameras, Canon and my dad (he sent me the newsletter :-D ) I had a fabulous day out at the Hawk Conservancy near Andover on Sunday.  (Yes, I spent Mother’s Day with my dad…)  They put on some wonderful, informative and humourous flying displays and the staff are very friendly and helpful.

I took 396 shots on the day :shock: so sorting through them will take a while, though on my first pass I immediately deleted 150.  :-D   The Black Kite below is a firm favourite, and I just wanted to get a post up to recommend the Hawk Conservancy.  It’ll be a little while before more get added to the gallery.

Black Kite

Canon 350D, 180mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO 200

In processing it I cropped, upped the exposure by 1, brightness to 0, contrast up a little, and applied a little bit of sharpening.

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Photography in Challenging Conditions

April 20th, 2008 by Iain · No Comments

Last weekend we took the hounds to an off-lead socialisation event organised by Greyhound Gap. The idea behind this is that it’s a chance for the hounds to run off-lead in a safe environment, something that not all of them are able to do very often. Though ours do get to run off-lead we like to go along for the social aspect, both human and hound. It is held in indoors in a riding school, which despite a number of skylights is quite dark. Especially when it’s completely overcast outside. :roll:

We got there early whilst the first group were having their run so I went in to take a few test shots. Even with the ISO pushed right up to 1600 and a fairly large aperture I couldn’t get a non-blurry shot. Luckily I had recently re-read about the Program (P) mode and decided to give that a whirl. What that allows you to do is set the ISO and let the camera decide on the aperture and shutter speed. So I set the ISO to 800 and began shooting.

It did feel kinda like cheating, using this mode, but I decided that getting a usable shot was more important than insisting on a level of control. Luckily part way into our session the sun began to break through. :cool:

The rest of the pictures can be seen here.

There is a follow-up thread on Gap where people have posted their pictures. When looking through that thread I was really amazed by those taken by Ali. I couldn’t see any exif so I had to badger her for details :D As suspected, she does have some fairly fast glass, and the ones that really caught my eye for the clarity and depth of field were taken using a fast prime lens, 100mm f/2.8. It’s certainly worth a few minutes of your time to take a look at her pictures from the event and her website as a whole.

If you’ve any tips on low light photography (other than buying fast glass!) the please let me know in the comments.

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Competition Entry – High Key Heat

April 2nd, 2008 by Iain · 3 Comments

High Key Heat

I finally found a brief moment of time to take a picture for the DSLR Photography magazine competition. I arrived home Monday evening to find the gorgeous evening sun streaming through the living room window and I knew I had to act fast as I didn’t have long.

I placed a piece of A3 paper on a chair, half on the seat, half up the back and set the chillis up. I tried a few different compositions but this was easily my favourite. (I’ll not say “best” as it’s totally subjective!) I knew that I wanted an odd number, with more greens than red, and the solitary red chilli to not be central. I just wish I’d had more time to experiment, and to have been able to try out a few shots, check them on the computer, and then make changes. But then, it’s my own fault for leaving it until the last minute…

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Photoshop’s Preview Option – A Top Tip

March 31st, 2008 by Iain · No Comments

It might be that this is entirely obvious to everyone bar me, but I’m going to post it anyway! When you’re making adjustments using one of the pop-ups (levels: my new favourite toy :cool: ) actually use the preview option. Don’t just leave it checked, watch the changes and try and visualise the difference :oops: – de-select and re-select it. As you turn the preview off and on you’ll see the changes that you are making!



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Is Your Exif Data Missing?

March 29th, 2008 by Iain · 7 Comments

I recently noticed a few pictures that I’d uploaded to Flickr didn’t have any Exif data(and in fact still don’t as I haven’t changed them yet). I don’t know about you, but if I see a picture that I like I often take a look at the Exif, primarily as a learning exercise. The fact that mine was missing annoyed me so I decided to investigate.

I found that the reason why was actually quite simple. It’s the “Save For Web” option within Photoshop Elements 6 that strips it out. I haven’t checked but guess that it does it to produce a smaller file size. If you use “Save As” instead you get to keep your Exif so that’s the way I’ll be creating my Jpegs from now on.

Using this method throws up a complication: image resizing. When you “Save For Web” you get the option to resize by pixels but this doesn’t happen when you “Save As” – you have to resize beforehand. However, selecting Image | Resize from the menu doesn’t appear to allow you to resize by pixels. You get a choice of percent, inches, cm, mm, points, picas or columns. Now I’m sure I could work out the percentage I need, but I don’t want to! Luckily the solution simple, if not obvious: tick the box to “Resample Image”. Bingo, you can resize by pixels.

Can anyone tell me why it should be this complicated? Or what the different resample options (bilinear/bicubic/etc) mean?

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Fork Me, I Enjoyed That!

March 24th, 2008 by Iain · 1 Comment

And very surprised I was, too. I decided to participate in Neil’s new project because I enjoyed the “taking part” aspect, and looking at other people’s shots and sites. I certainly didn’t imagine that I’d enjoy taking a picture of a fork, but that’s how it turned out. So, the picture:

The fork

Pretty much as soon as I decided I would enter I came up with an idea for the composition. Rather than shoot the fork as a whole I wanted to focus on the tines and have the rest blur out behind. As I don’t have a macro lens I had to rely on my geniusness ;-) (AKA recently gained knowledge). The longer the focal length, the shorter the depth of field. So I set the fork up on one side of the room, the tripod on the other, took a few test shots to make sure the idea worked, and it did. I then began a cycle of taking some pictures, checking them on the computer and changing an element of the composition or exposure. It was this that I found to be surprisingly enjoyable.

So, Neil, thank you. I don’t know that I’m finding forks any more interesting, but I have discovered that still life photography can be fun!

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