The Smith's Journal - October 2010

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Nocturnal photography

Tags: Arts

I've been reading lots about photography recently. The Argentinian photographer Alejandro Chaskielberg gets his models to hold 5-minute poses at full moon for astonishing lighting. Besides the ethereal lighting, that shift focus is quite amazing, making everything look miniaturised. And wow, these surrealist photos are really great.

[UPDATE: I see that Alejandro Chaskielberg has recently been photographing the drought in Kenya.]

Nowadays I use a cheap digicam which is good for "pics" but the rear screen is practically useless for composing real "photographs". I miss the viewfinder of my old analogue Canon EOS600 SLR; using Lorna's proper camera recently made me realise the difference - night and day... Eventually I'd like to get a proper DSLR and learn how to combine the above techniques to make nocturnal surrealist portraits after the manner of Dali, Giorgio de Chirico and Paul Delvaux. I have been planning a few already, in some special locations...


Panoramic photography

Tags: Arts, Places, Computers

My photographic studies continue, after discovering a treasure trove of inspiring articles and podcasts about photography, GIMP and Inkscape. So I've been learning more about animation and panoramic photography using the excellent cross-platform Hugin software - this will save me many hours of manually stitching together my photos using The GIMP, which will never look quite as good as getting the computer to do the maths properly to create a smoothed image with correct perspective which can look absolutely stunning in expert hands. I gave a talk about Hugin at HertsLUG showing how to create many of the images below.

Here is one of my first attempts, joining two photos from Swyncombe Church. Click to zoom in to massive size so you can spot the (lack of) joins. I'll add more panoramas here as I finish them...

[ Panorama view of the chancel in St. Botolph's Church ]

The algorithm (or maybe the user!) doesn't always get the intended result... Some very strange things occurred with these macabre images of Temple Church, the panoramas of which are made from the first two original images.

[ The floor of the round Nave in Temple Church | The ceiling of the round Nave in Temple Church ] The round Nave in Temple Church lit in an eerie light | The round Nave in Temple Church, gone all pear-shaped ]

OMG, who put all that blood on the floor and walls?!?!? I swear that it wasn't there in the church. Somehow Hugin has altered the colour, after I specified that it use the brightness settings from the top image, but never dreamed it would do this! And look at those weird alien artefacts on the floor near the pillars, again a result of the algorithm. I added a dark border to mask the curved edges, but didn't bother doing this in the last attempt which uses Rectilinear perspective but turned out just downright weird. This next one, using three images, worked out better:

[ Panorama view of the circular nave in Temple Church ]

Later on I got more ambitious, sewing together multiple images. This first one of my studio uses four portrait-aspect images. Some degree of overlap helps the program to work - if it can't figure it out automagically, you just tell it where identical items appear in both adjoining photos. Depending on the type of algorithm used, you get different results, ranging from the fairly conventional 'fisheye' effect to more deranged (which is composed of three images). In some photos you can see the barrel distortion where I didn't crop out the curved edges. Notice also some weird anomalies where the algorithm occasionally fails to line up edges properly (e.g., desktop edge, Sony reverbs and Jupiter-6 top panel in this image and also its side panel). Sometimes I attempted to manually smooth out the errors when I had more time than sense.

[ Spotlit studio panorama over Jupiter ]

[ Sunny studio wide panorama | Sunny studio panorama from above | Studio panorama rack closeup | Deranged perspective studio panorama | Evening studio fisheye panorama from above computer ]

[ Sunny studio | 180' studio panorama from window to doorway | Sunlit studio DAT desk ]

[ Wide angle panorama with phat-fingered Jupiter ]

Here are some more from 2012 of my new place - using ten, seven, eight and nine images respectively! Recently (it's 2014 now as I add these) Hugin has been getting even better at automatically matching the control points in overlapping photos to make the stitching process even more seamless, with stunning results.

[ Studio panorama, looking good but still largely uncabled ]

[ Studio rear vinyl wall panorama ]

[ Another panoramic view of Narniasound studio ]

[ Curvacious ARP Odyssey for bendy basslines ]

I edited the first two of these next panoramas from Benington Lordship because they ended up with whole blocks missing at the edges due to perspective distortion and I didn't want to crop them square and lose lots of the image. So instead I copied+pasted+resized+touched up some tree branches from other photos with matching sky colour! Compare the top left of the second with just below the top left of the first... At a casual glance it's enough to fool the eye, although you can probably spot that the top of the hedge is a bit too immaculately manicured when you zoom in close, and also notice on the first photo some 'tiling' patterns from multiple copies of turf and shadowy driveway :-)

[ Benington Lordship moat and gatehouse folly | Ornamental lawns at Benington Lordship | Scilla bithynica flowerbeds at Benington Lordship ]

OK, now we're talking: seven images! I left the border uncropped as the photos make a nice pattern (using Equirectangular perspective). Note the crop circle in the yellow field! This view is seen from the top of the megalithic hillfort on Deacon Hill, which is itself pictured below (using Rectilinear perspective)).

[ Crop Circle panorama looking east toward Hitchin from Deacon Hill ]

[ Panorama looking east toward Deacon Hill ]


Life is good

Tags: Music, Drumming, Studio, Arts, Computers

Life is good for me at the moment. I'm still very busy teaching and performing music with kids which is so rewarding for them, their parents and for me too; everybody benefits. My University evening class in African Drumming (possibly a first? Certainly the first one I know of) started up and is very successful. Other recent exploits include Samhain festivities at Celtic Harmony Camp, and celebrating the Girl Guides' centenary at 20:10 20/10/2010 with seventy girls drumming and dancing in a massive hall!

Despite very little activity on the surface on this website, lots has been going on behind the scenes: (soon to go online)

I sometimes wonder at the amount of time I spend doing stuff that never gets to see the light of day: so many photos are taken, renamed, archived, sometimes edited, but I never find time to actually get them out there, or they fail to meet my high Quality Control standards. The world wide web is already full of dross so I try not to flood you with mediocrity. But I will make special efforts to try and waste less time and be more productive.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Licence © The right to copy is left with the user copyleft Malcolm Smith 2010-01-02 - last updated 2014-05-16