Pinhole Tutorial

Aside

For people interested in recreating the sometimes stunning effects of pinhole cameras, there is a tutorial on the Ogum blog looking at how this can be done in photoshop.

Time to lighten the mood

I will applogise for the last few posts here being a bit morose and screaming about the doom and gloom of our crazy world. To try and make things better (and to shamelessly get more hits on my flickr stream 🙂 ) I want you to have a look at these four castle pictures and let me know which one you think is the best – comments on flickr would be preferred but here will do 🙂

Chirk Castle Tower Scrabo Tower Killyleagh Castle Clouds over Hillsborough Fort

Thanks for your patience and the normal miserable service will resume tomorrow.

New Photo Collection

I have been editing some more photographs to within an inch of their lives recently and trying out a few new effects. The wonders of things you can do with Photoshop may never amaze me and, as I have said in the past, you would be mad to think the camera never lies…

[piflasa]http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/data/feed/base/user/tas.spaceholder/albumid/5095261742046817249?kind=photo&alt=rss&hl=en_US|400[/piflasa]

I will upload more to this collection as I get the chance.

Jessops is still a bad shop

Jessops is still a bad shop. Last week there came a point at which I was going to write a big, apologetic, post here about how Jessops had redeemed themselves in my eyes. Sadly is it not to be, and they have firmly entrenched themselves in my “Bad Shop” books. Interestingly, today I have a comment from someone who seems to be defending Jessops and I will deal with that in this post. This is quite a convoluted tale of woe but I will try to keep it simple.

First, the comment by Tycoon. For those of you who haven’t read the previous post, and its comments, this is what he wrote:

Once again, this is a typical example of what you think the website tells you, rather what it actually tells you.

1 million other customers who have used the service since it launched a few months ago, didn’t have a problem.

Wow, where do I start with this! Obviously I have no idea if this person works for Jessops or their web site people, but if s/he doesn’t it is an oddly worded comment. I have never engaged Tycoon in discussion before, so I dont know what “once again” is supposed to mean – other than this is a disgruntled help desk employee.

Critically, this is not an example of me making a mistake over what the website was telling me. The website explicitly informed me the items would be ready for collection. However, I have admitted it is possible I made a mistake, and it is. The fact 1 million (or how ever many) other customers have not had a problem is irrelevant. I had a problem and there was no system in place to make it better for me. Does Tycoon have any figures as to how many other online customers have had problems but not bothered to complain about it? Or the people who never got the site to work properly for them in the first place? It strikes me he is more concerned with the least important numbers.

Anyway, this is all in the past and I don’t want to descend into an argument over pedantry. Jessops is still a bad shop.The problem with my order continued and has affected other people I know. Now, there is the outside chance that the two shops in question are just badly managed, or that the people I know are just unlucky, but you have to start to wonder…

Looking at my order first, eventually I received a text message saying the order was ready and I could pick it up. Overjoyed – and tempted to forgive Jessops for my initial ranting – I took time off work, jumped in my car and drove the eternity to the town where Jessops is. I happily paid the £4 parking fee and went to the shop (I could have waited but the next time we were planning to go into town was two weeks away). In all the time between getting the text and arriving at the shop was just under two hours. In the shop there is a huge queue – comically the person at the front was complaining about an online order they had made, but I didn’t get the full details.

When I eventually get served, the assistant brings up a huge box with my name on it and starts to show me the items. Everything is there — except the camera and lens. After a search, the assistant draws a blank and seeks the managers advice. It turns out, they are out of stock of the camera – the last one they had was sold two days previously. So it seems that despite the text message sent to me telling me the order was ready, it actually wasn’t. I am sure this is not a case of me thinking the website was telling me something different to what it was really saying.

Now, at this point, there was nearly a huge row in the shop. I was furious at having taken time off work, driven all the way to town, all on a complete fabrication. Fortunately for my blood pressure, the manager diffused the matter by coming to a deal where I would take away the shop’s display model (heavily shop soiled), then when they had new ones in stock I could exchange it for a new one. This seemed reasonable enough for me, so off I went.

Having forgiven Jessops for their sins, my wife decided to purchase a tripod for me. This was double and triple checked on the website (it was in the collect@store special deals) to ensure it was available. It was, so the order was made. An hour later, my wife duly received the email and text message confirming the tripod was available for collection – so she goes into town to collect it – and ask if the camera was ready for exchange.

Shockingly, two people in front of her in the queue was a gentleman who purchased the last D80 they had in stock (nice of them). Still, no massive deal, so she asked to just collect the tripod. At this point, the assistant apologises and says they don’t have any in stock. He defends himself by saying they are on order and should be in by Saturday. So away she goes – with nothing. When we get home, we check the website – it is still marked as being in stock and check the emails. All point to the tripod being ready that day with no explanation as to why it wasn’t.

Saturday comes, we phone up this time, and neither the tripod nor the camera are in stock but a delivery has arrived and will be unpacked over the course of the day. In the afternoon we phone again – nope, they are not there but a delivery is due on Monday. Today, my wife has called them again and neither the camera nor the tripod are in stock, but a delivery is due… yeah, I am sure you get the point.

Add to this, a friend from work made a collect@store purchase for a Canon EOS400D camera (seeking the £10 saving). He went through the exact steps I did, got the store (a different one than I used) only to find out there were none left in stock but some more were on order. This was four days ago – it still hasn’t arrived and he has given up and bought it elsewhere.

It looks like I will end up doing the same for the tripod. I am still left with an excellent – if shop soiled – camera which I paid full price for and no signs of a possible exchange. The savings from using Jessops are quickly eaten up by the difficulties involved with actually getting hold of the goods. It doesn’t surprise me that Jessops are closing nearly a hundred shops over the country – with this sort of sales skills, I suspect more may go as well. Collect@Store is pointless if it doesn’t work.

Sadly, the staff in Jessops are wonderful (if poor at stock control) and know the subject very well indeed. It will be a shame to see the shops close, but at least then I will no longer be tempted to buy things from them and I can do the sensible choice and shop elsewhere.

[tags]Bad Shops, Jessops, E-Commerce, Camera, Nikon, D80, Digital Camera, Online Shopping[/tags]

HDR Photographs

Still in a holiday mood, I have been playing with Photomatix trying to convert “normal” pictures into high dynamic range pictures (HDR – read more here and here). At the moment, I am certainly not even up to the beginner standard but I have learned a few things in the last couple of hours. Simply put, HDR is taking multiple pictures of the same scene at different exposures, then combining these exposures to make a single image.

For simple HDR type images, the most common methods (on windows, Linux users get a different set of joy and I have no idea about Macs) are to use Photoshop or Photomatix. In newer versions of Photoshop you have the option to either play with layers and blend your images (can get fantastic results but can also be very hit and miss) or use the Merge to HDR option (File -> Automate -> Merge to HDR in CS3). Sadly, personally, I have never had much success with the automatic option but you might manage it.

Alternatively there is a bit of software called Photomatix (Pro costs $99, Basic is Free) which does a similar job but includes “Tone Mapping.” Peter Hasitschka’s page gives more details (along with some fantastic images) so I wont go into detail here. Needless to say, the tone mapping can give you some amazing results, although I have only been playing with this for the last 30 minutes or so. So far it is worth every penny. Continue reading

Jessops – Bad Shop

The current line of ranting on technological subjects continues… This time it is the result of some mixed experiences with Jessops, a camera retailer with both on- and off-line shops.

Surprisingly for a High Street retailer, Jessops price their camera systems competitively with most online shops. For anyone who has not been unfortunate enough to try an dip their toes into the world of Digital SLR cameras, the whole thing is a muddle of choosing a camera body and lens from an array of options that really are mind boggling. Annoyingly, there are few retailers who provide the best price on everything, one will have very cheap lenses, but expensive camera bodies, another will be cheap bodies but extortionate shipping costs and so on.

As a result of this muddle (and wanting to have my new toy right now!), I eventually came to decide that the best solution would be to buy the camera and a kit lens from Jessops (I went for the Nikon D80 and a Nikkor 18-135mm lens for anyone who cares), then order other bits and pieces from cheaper, online, retailers (Warehouse Express is very good value for lenses). Continue reading

Back Online

Well, after a somewhat wet holiday all the WhyDontYou contributors are now back home safe and sound.

It seems our Atheistic comments here, while being studiously ignored by the Abrahamic deity were noticed by a few more elemental Gods… Obviously our lack of sacrifices to Mithras and general irreverence ensured that every day we were subjected to almost Biblical downpours. At one point it became comical – every time we were in the car it was brilliant sunshine, as soon as we got out the clouds appeared and the rain began. Seriously. Add to this a week where we had no access to the internet but every single day a thousand and one religious-nonsense blog topics forced themselves upon us. The Gods were truly displeased.

That aside, it was great fun and about a zillion photographs were taken. In fact, it has prompted me even more towards buying a “real” camera, and now I am stuck with the difficult decision between two entry level Digital SLR cameras. I have narrowed it down to a choice between the Nikon D40x and the Canon EOS 400D.  I have found the Nikon for about£15 cheaper than the Canon now (because of the Nikon cashback offer) so that looks favourite – for now. If anyone has any experience of either I would be interested to hear it. The next hurdle will be where to buy it from 🙂

Anyway, enough rambling for now. Hopefully normal service will resume in the morning.

[tags]Holiday, Deities, Mithras, WhyDontYou, Technology, Nikon, Canon, D40x, EOS, EOS 400D, Camera, Digital Camera, Digital SLR, SLR[/tags]

Pictures and Prints

It has been a while since I posted some photos here for you to, err, enjoy so it is about time the blog got livened up a little. I am planning to run off quite a few photos into real world prints using Snapfish (which is, by the way, excellent), but some of the source photos felt like they could do with the Photoshop Goodness.

I am aware of how often I say this, but it never ceases to amaze me that ten minutes spent in Photoshop can turn average pictures into wonderful creations. Now, I am not arrogant enough to say these examples are wonderful (although I think they are…) but they are certainly more eye catching than the originals.

As with most of my pictures they are taken from either National Trust or English Heritage sites. These have been resized in Advance Batch Converter, which sadly reduces the quality a little. On the off chance you would like a larger original (up to around 2760x1840px) then let me know – they are free 🙂 . As you can see, I have a tendency to get enamoured with “Lomo-Style” effects – mainly on the pictures of Stonehenge and Lulworth Cove.

castle ward - path photo Lanercost Priory Lulworth Cove Stonehenge - Lomo version

Although some people may feel that “retouching” the photo after it has been taken is cheating, I disagree, it is all part of the digital imaging process (IMHO of course). Seriously, although I have neither shares in Adobe, nor do I get advertising kickbacks from them, I honestly think anyone who has a digital camera really should get some form of image processing software and learn to use it. The great thing about photoshop is that even after two years, I am still finding new (and sometimes interesting) things you can do to spruce up a picture.

[tags]Pictures, photos, landscapes, Dorset, Lulworth Cove, Stonehenge, English Heritage, National Trust, Photographs, Photoshop, Photography, Photo Software, Photo Editing, Digital Camera, Digital Photography, Lomo, Photo Effects, Lomography[/tags]

Photoshopping Bodium Castle

It seems that I cant help but stay up late at night seeing what can (and can’t) be done with photoshop. If you are reading this on Planet Atheism looking for Atheist / free thinking content – sorry nothing to see here. I will keep this short and sweet though.

For those who still resit the wonders of photoshop, this is an example of what it can do to an other wise dreary picture taken in poor weather. The source photo was, it must be said, pretty uninspiring. However after a total of 14 minutes in photo shop (most of that was waiting for the disk thrashings to stop, the source image was massive so the file was about 90mb) it now looks a lot more dramatic and is something people would actually want to look at.

Original Picture - Bodium Castle, 5 May 07 Photoshopped Picture - Bodium Castle 05 May 07

Yes, the effects are a bit over the top, I did get carried away with myself, and the low quality used to resize them into something you can download and view has impacted it a bit, but I am sure you get the gist of the point I am trying to make.

Digital photo editing rocks.

[tags]adobe, digital-photographs, digital-camera, digital-culture, Castles, Bodium, National Trust, Sussex, pictures, photoshop, photos, photography, photographs, photo-software, photo-effects, technology[/tags]