Austin’s Odds

Well done, Gilbert, Shirley and Nora for putting in a panel for the IPF’s Licentiate. We thought the three of you would get it, but commiserations to Gilbert and Shirley. Get back to work so that you’ll be ready for the next attempt ūüėÜ . Nora Kavanagh has been added to our “Honours” page.

Three rounds down, one to go! The final round, with entries due in April, has no theme, and as with the second round, entries are to be mounted prints. If you can’t remember sizes etc, take a look at the competition rules page.

Results of the third round, judged recently by Brendan King, went out by email, so if you didn’t receive yours, or there was an error in it, please complain!

In the Novice section, 5 members have scores over 90, and there are another couple not far behind, so competition for the top 3 places  remains intense. The Intermediates have a bigger gap between 1st and 3rd, but only 4 points separate 3rd and 4th, so there is a battle on there for 3rd place and possible promotion to the Advanced section. There is no promotion possibility for the Advanced group, but only 4 points separate the top 3. Overall, it is hard to predict who will get the shields in each of the sections this year.

Judge Brendan King, a former member of the club, gave two images maximum points in the third round, Tim Redmond’s mono “Times Past” and Joe Rattigan’s colour “Bronze Age Burial Tomb”. Congratulations, Tim and Joe.

 

Round Two, with “Modern Life” as the theme, attracted a much lower entry than round one, with only 24 members competing. Was the theme too difficult? Was it because entries had to be printed and mounted?

Judge Karl McDonough didn’t go easy on us, but that is what we need – we know our pictures are wonderful, but do have to be told from time to time that others might sometimes find them less so, and so, hopefully, we learn and improve. And as long as all are treated equally then it doesn’t distort the overall league results. Thank you, Karl.

Maria Martin’s wonderful Intermediate Colour entry, “Bar Codes” was the only one to achieve the magic 20 – congratulations, Maria. There were a few others that I felt deserved higher marks than they achieved, but I’m not the judge.

Some time over the next few days, if all goes well, entrants will get an email detailing their round two scores, their total scores to date, and their position in the league tables. As it will be done automatically, please forgive any errors.

The third round will be digital entry again, and the theme is “Times Past”. When submitting your entries remember the file name has to be in the correct format of membership number, then a dash, then C for colour or M for mono, another dash and then the title, eg:

  • 11701-C-Tree on Kilkenny Road.jpg
  • 11701-M-After Sunset.jpg

Try to keep the titles short and snappy.

While you are thinking about your Round Three entry, you could also be thinking about your Photographer of the Year entry, which needs 10 images, and of course continue working on Change.

In the discussion after Seamus’ (aided by Linda) interesting demonstration on using a grey card last night, people were asked what colour space that were using, and I think a lot said “RGB”. I’m hoping they meant sRGB, not a (or Adobe) RGB.

In the dark hours of the night, if I think about it really deeply, I find that I don’t understand nearly as much about colour as I would like, and then get panic attacks as to whether to use sRGB or aRGB (the only choices on my camera) or something else altogether. I fire up Google (GIYF, most of the time) and get these:

  • “But for most photos of people printed at commercial printers, sRGB is a better choice. And if you want them to display well on the Internet, it’s the only choice.” Smugmug
  • “sRGB is the world’s default color space. Use it and everything looks great everywhere, all the time” Ken Rockwell
  • “do you really need the richer cyan-green midtones, orange-magenta highlights, or green shadows? Will these colors also be visible in the final print? Will these differences even be noticeable? If you’ve answered “no” to any of these questions, then you would be better served using sRGB” Cambridge in Colour
  • “Set your camera to sRGB, not Adobe RGB” Gary Fong on Youtube

Reassured, I leave my camera the way I’ve always had it – sRGB. You should of course calibrate your monitor, but that’s a different issue …

You go on a club outing, Liffey Descent or Carlingford weekend, or a family holiday or whatever is the photo opportunity and you take some pictures, maybe even a few hundred, or a few thousand if you are heavy on the shutter button. I took 700 in 3 weeks in Canada. Then you transfer them to your computer, and get rid of the out-of-focus or hopelessly overexposed or the ones where your partner yells “delete that” at you or the sundry other bad shots or duplicates, and file them neatly in a folder for the event in a folder for the month in a folder for the year, (2012/09/Canada is down to 580 shots, still too many – more culling is needed.) and take a backup. But what next? What happens to the billions of pictures taken around the world each year?

as an example … While in Canada we visited Vancouver Island’s Butchart Gardens, which gets approximately 1,000,000 visitors each year. Everyone we saw was using a camera. Even if each one takes only 10 on average (I took 36, my wife about the same) that is ten million images of just one tourist attraction – billions world-wide is probably an under-estimate!

Maybe you choose one favourite picture, make a print and put it on your wall. Unless you have a lot of wall space, this might mean removing some other favourite picture that you have up. I have 11 hanging, with space for one or two more. There are also of course the electronic albums, where you can transfer a couple of hundred pictures and have them running on a continuous slideshow. We tried one, but never found it very satisfactory and have it turned off.

You might choose a few of the better ones and put them on your facebook wall, so that your friends can see them, or in a facebook album and send a link around, or put them on the CPS facebook page – but there only other CPS members will see them. And whether on your wall or the CPS wall, facebook is transient, and few people will take the trouble to look back at images posted six months ago.

Some of your images might be seen in CPS itself, either at a “bring in six from …” evening or at a competition or exhibition, but these too are transient (though some of our GBS Theatre/Visual exhibition pictures are still in several places around Visual). Somewhat more permanent is to put a selection of the finest in your album in the CPS Gallery, where the nature of the viewing is different from facebook, in that someone (and it can be anyone, not just friends!) goes to an album and looks through the images, or runs the slideshow (have you tried the slideshow?). This is quite a good way of sharing pictures.

You could of course print out a selection of the best, well mounted of course, and have your own exhibition Рsome of the cafés in town often have such photos on display Рwith the pleasure of knowing, if you sell a few, that others are getting some enjoyment from your images. Or you could carry a mini-exhibition around with you, either by using one of the on-line services or going in to your local pharmacy with a dozen or two on a USB memory stick and getting them printed as a little book to carry around with you and amaze (or bore Рbe careful) your friends. Or of course you could put a selection on your iPad.

Back before I went digital I would put a few of the prints, 4×6, from each event in an 80 or 100 print album, over the course of a year filling one or two albums, and even still the children when they visit will pull out an album from 1980 or 1991 or whatever and show the pictures to their children, and I am thinking that maybe this is the way to go and I should start doing it again, as images in a book-like album are a lot more accessible than stored neatly on your hard disk. I’ve just done a quick count – about 29,000 since digital-day in May 2005.

Print a selection of the year for an album, and print the one best of the year for your wall. Let them be seen.

Yes, just one more session! It is a Q&A session where you can ask anything you want to know, and the panel will try to give a simple, clear, cohesive answer. They might not succeed. It would probably help if the questions were related to photography, as the panel might not be well equipped for dealing with deep philosophical questions. If you know now what you might like to ask, why not ask now – you could post a question here as a comment, or email it to Nuala. Probably the facebook page is not a good idea, but if you want, give it a try.

Some of the material from the classes is already available on the site, on the Notes and Tutorials page, and more will be uploaded as it becomes available.

Last night we had the judging of the first round of this year’s club league. The theme was reflections, and between the various levels there were 62 photographs entered on the theme “Reflections”. The judge was photographer¬†Alf Harvey¬†from Castlecomer, and we are very grateful to him for his helpful comments and suggestions. On several pictures he recommended printing it big and selling it – I don’t know if we would have to give him a commission! It was wonderful to see so many members participating in the league, and as usual the standard was excellent. Alf awarded the maximum score to just one picture, entered by Ken Dagg in the Novice Colour section. Well done Ken!

The next round, with entries in November, has as theme “Modern Life”, so start looking for suitable images now. There will again be one mono and one colour image per member, but this time they are to be printed and mounted. We will have a demonstration on mounting on one of the club nights before the entries are due.

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If you take bird photos in Spring, you might be breaking the law! Under the Wildlife Act 2000, which amends the 1976 Act, it is illegal to take photographs of protected birds (and all wild birds are protected) when the birds are on or near the nest, and the nest contains eggs or unfledged young. It doesn’t matter if you are 1 kilometre away with a telephoto lens the size of tar barrel, you can’t take the picture if the bird is near the nest.

The problem here is, of course, that if you see a bird through your barrel-sized lens, you have no way of knowing whether or not the bird is near its nest, and even if it is, whether or not there is anything in the nest. And you might wonder how, from such a distance, taking the bird’s picture will in any way disturb it, but the act takes no cognisance of the distance of the photographer, merely whether or not the bird is on or near the nest. Near is, of course, undefined.

Happy, legal, snapping!

Why

A digital image is a rectangle filled with dots of colour. The dots are called pixels, and the image taken by a typical camera has millions of them (“megapixels”) – mine for example are about 4900 pixels across and 3200 down, giving 15.5 megapixels.

A computer screen is also a rectangle of pixels. Mine is 1680 across by 1050 down.

The rectangle from the camera is bigger than the rectangle of the screen, so to display the image the software has to scale it down to screen size. Each displayed pixel is estimated from the block of actual pixels around it, and the resulting image is about 30% of the size that it would be if the screen was big enough. The display software generally shows this percentage.

The image from my camera, saved as a jpeg file, will be about 10 mega-bytes (MB), and unless you have a super-fast internet connection, will be slow to upload to, or download from, the internet. And if I upload and someone downloads it to look at it, the first thing their display software will have to do is scale it down so that it will fit on their screen. So it would be better if I scaled it down before uploading it, to save time in both downloading and display for subsequent viewers.

I usually resize from 4900 to 1200 pixels on the long side, throwing away 3700 pixels on every line, which will reduce the file size from about 10MB to about 750KB, and so file transfer will take less than 1/10th of the time. The resulting image will fit most screens without needing to be resized.

Image files are often stored in JPEG format. JPEG format reduces the file size without changing the pixel count, but it does reduce the quality of the image. The more the file size is reduced, the lower will be the quality of the resulting image. To get the 10MB file down to 750KB by JPEG compression rather than by scaling requires setting the quality level to about 65%.

But even 750KB is a bit large for moving around the internet, and I prefer a final size of about 200-250KB, so after scaling I then set the JPEG quality to 90%. To get the same file size without first scaling would require a JPEG setting of around 10%. The resulting picture quality would be terrible.

So, the primary purpose of resizing is for speed and convenience of display on the internet. Secondary advantages are that, because the file size is so very much smaller, storage requirement on the server is much less, and if someone decides to steal your picture, they won’t be able to make a top-quality print of it.

How

The specific steps I take for resizing an image in Graphic Converter (GC) (Photoshop and other software may have different menu names, but the steps will be the same):

  • with the image open, use Picture/Size/Scale. I set the width to 1200 pixels (or if the picture is in portrait mode set the height to 800) and make sure that “Keep proportions” is selected. GC gives me the choice of several algorithms. I don’t think it makes much difference which is used in scaling down, but I use “high quality interpolation”. For scaling up the choice is more important. Don’t change the size in inches/cm, nor the resolution in dots per inch – it is the actual pixel count we want to change
  • after scaling the image that will be saved is based on fewer pixels, that have been averaged from the discarded pixels, so sharpening is essential. In GC the menu path is Effect/Unsharp Mask. I have the radius set at about 1, the amount at about 60% and the threshold at about 5. For faces I would usually increase the threshold and reduce the amount.
  • Finally, I use File/Save As to save the result, not Save as we don’t want to change our original image. If the image type is not already set to JPEG I select it. As the file is going to the internet, either to facebook or the CPS gallery or by email to someone, I save it to the desktop as I won’t be keeping it, and so usually I don’t bother changing the file name – I will delete it the next time I tidy the desktop. When the dialog on the compression comes up I look to see what the final file size will be, then adjust the compression amount to give me somewhere between 200 and 300KB.

In summary, the person looking at our pictures doesn’t want to wait an age for them to download, and doesn’t want to see more than a screenful, so it is courteous to resize them before uploading them.

During its first year of existence, the society members decided to show a selection of their work during Eigse, Carlow’s annual arts festival. The exhibition was given a half-joking working name “Exposure”, and the name stuck, so that Exposure, first mounted in 2004, has become an annual event for CPS. Unlike many exhibitions, there is no curator – each member who wants to show work chooses the pictures to be shown.

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In 2006 some of the members started working on a project, under the tutelage of artist Gypsy Ray. Initially with no specified goal, as the project evolved the goal became the production of “Night Specific”, a series of black-and-white night photographs of Carlow, and culminated in an exhibition of the pictures during Eigse 2007.

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In June 2008 there was an exhibition of pictures in Carlow by the Photo Club Anton Azbe of Skofja Loka, and consequential on this CPS was invited to mount an exhibition in the Skofja Loka town hall. Three members of the society travelled to Slovenia for the exhibition opening by the Irish Ambassador, and later in the year a larger group travelled out. A selection of the pictures from these trips was mounted in the newly-opened Shamrock Plaza, during Eigse 2009. At the same time both Gypsy Ray and her husband had exhibitions there.

The Slovenian connection didn’t stop there. While in Slovenia members met artist-photographer¬†Tomaz Lunder, and invited him to guide us through another project. Again initially without a specific aim, the group eventually chose the theme “Connections”, which led to a disparate-but-together selection of images that was shown in an empty shop in Tullow Street during Eigse 2010. The Slovenian Ambassador opened the exhibition for us, and subsequently arranged for it to be shown again in the European Union House, in Dublin, in February 2011.

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Meanwhile, in Spring 2010, CPS was invited by the management of the new Visual Arts Centre / George Bernard Shaw Theatre to send a couple of photographers along to every event, to produce the story of the gallery and theatre over a year. This culminated in an exhibition in the theatre at Christmas 2010, but it did not finish there as the various events are still being photographed, and another exhibition is planned for the end of November 2011 – and maybe on into the future.

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For 2011, the Year of the Barrow, the Society organised a project related to the river. Again there was much discussion and debate on what sort of pictures to take for it, with the debate eventually deciding on a series of portraits of people with a Barrow connection. The portraits were given a white border, with a comment in the person’s own words and handwriting. The resulting pictures were exhibited in and around Lennon’s Restaurant at Visual, opening in June and remaining in place until August.

What next? At present there is no particular project in progress, but hopefully it will not be too long before another opportunity presents itself, giving members a chance to undertake new challenges and develop new skills.

The collected photos from most of these projects are online in the Exhibitions album of the society’s web gallery.