Archive for April, 2005

I never thought…

… I’d feel sorry for a Dalek! Aww, poor thing!

I can’t quite decide if I like the new Dr. Who series. On the one hand it’s good that the series is back, but on the other we have Daleks that can fly and are soppy!

The Modern Antiquarian

Just stumbled across The Modern Antiquarian - looks like quite an interesting site!

Bluebell photo

Bluebell photos (set) - some snaps I took yesterday. I’m not especially happy with these, but I can only get better…

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Nooooooo!

Damn and blast! I got up before five this morning so that I could go out and get some photos of bluebells in woods before work. I didn’t get to the woods as early as I would have liked (I wanted to get really muted break-of-day colours), but I was so pleased to actually find some bluebells (in the woods near Ockley on the A29) that I didn’t mind so much.

To cut the story short, just as I was wrapping up I realised that all the photos had been shot at ISO 1600! Bugger. The last time I used my camera was at a work do on Friday night. As I was only taking snaps that night I shot at this speed so I didn’t need to use a flash. The pictures would only be viewed on screen so it wouldn’t matter about the noisy pictures. Anyway, as a rule I reset the ‘film speed’ to ISO 100 once I’m done, but I was so drunk that night I completely forgot.

The net result of all this is that all my snaps from this morning will be noisy and not sharp (so much for shooting at f/22), so that’s a little annoying. Still, you live and learn!

I’ll try and process the snaps and drop them into my flickr account tonight when I get home…

Unsharp Mask

I’ve been meaning to post a link to this article for some time: Understanding Sharpening. (Although this article is on Microsoft’s web site, it’s actually very good!)

As some of you know, I got my first digital camera a few months ago. I was a little disappointed with it in some ways, and one of the reasons was because I felt the images were a bit on the soft side. Anyway, now I’ve read this article I’m much happier about it all, and following Rob Galbraith’s advice in this article has certainly helped me get more pleasing results.

I’m yet to actually print any of my photos, but I will be doing so shortly, so as always, watch this space for updates!

By the way, Rob has got quite a few really good articles about digital photography on the Microsoft web site, and they are well worth a read!

Update 30 December 2005 The Understanding Sharpening article has gone off the Microsoft website. Doing a search of the site turns up a copy of it under the israel section, so in case the article goes completely, here are some interesting bits from it:

To compensate for the blurring effect of the low-pass filter, sharpening must be applied before the picture is resized/resampled for a specific output process, but after other corrections—especially noise reduction—have been completed.

To compensate for the softening effect of the output process, sharpening should be applied after the picture has been resized/resampled

Amount. Sharpening doesn’t actually bring back lost detail, it simply adds edge contrast to the detail that’s already there. The Amount controls how much contrast is added to light-dark transitions in a photo. As it happens, light-dark transitions are almost always edges; increasing contrast along these transitions enhances the detail and makes the picture appear sharper. The higher the Amount value, the greater the contrast increase.

Radius. This setting determines how many pixels out from an edge will be affected by the edge contrast adjustment. The higher the Radius value, the greater the width of the affected area. If you’ve ever seen a strange halo along edges in your photos after sharpening, you’re seeing the effects of what was probably a too-high radius value.

Threshold. This setting dictates how different in tone adjacent pixels have to be before they’re considered a light-dark transition to be sharpened. The lower the Threshold value, the greater the number of pixels that will be sharpened throughout the photo.

To compensate for the blurring effect of a camera’s low-pass filter, the key is a low radius value: 0.3 to 0.5. Only cameras that shoot particularly soft photos will require a radius higher than 0.3. The Threshold setting should be in the 0-2 range. Move it above 0 only if you see noise appearing in dark backgrounds as you preview your sharpening. The Amount will be between 200-500%. Examine the image at 100% magnification, and pick an Amount that gives the photo the kind of snap you would expect to see from the good lens you used to shoot the photo. Landscape photographer Stephen Johnson once referred to this sharpening step as restoring the native sharpness of the lens. The volume of sharpening you apply should be to accomplish just that, and nothing more.

When it’s time to sharpen the picture for the printed page, the Unsharp Mask filter settings are different, and vary widely with the intended output. In general, printed output of any description will require a higher radius value than described above. The coarser the printing, the higher the radius. For instance, when sharpening an average-sized photo for newsprint reproduction, the radius will be at 1.0 to 1.5 typically. To print the same photo on a premium quality inkjet photo printer, the radius need be no more than about 0.6 to 0.8. As print size increases, so too does the Radius value. The Threshold in most cases should stay low—under 10 - while the Amount will float from picture to picture, and is highly dependent on the output process. With practice, you’ll develop a sense of where the Amount needs to be set for your printing workflow.

OK, quite an excessive amount of copying there, but it’s useful stuff and it would be a shame to see it vanish.

Kodak Grey Card

Last week I got a Kodak Grey Card. In actual fact, it was a set of two large grey cards, and one small one, but that’s by the by.

What is a grey card?

For those of you that don’t know, your cameras light meter aims to make the scene it is metering on average 18% grey. This is why pictures on the beach or with lots of snow in often come out under-exposed (darker than they should be - i.e. grey), and dark (night-time) photos often come out over-exposed (lighter than they should be - i.e. grey). (In fact it’s not just your camera’s meter that does this - machines used in photo labs to print pictures aim to get the overall image to be 18% grey, so when you think you’ve been cunning and got a great photo of star trails, the print shop totally screw up when they come to print the picture. Ahh, the number of arguments I’ve had on that one!)

Using a grey card

I digress. So, if you have a grey card, you can take your camera meter reading off this (in the same light that is falling on your subject), and the theory is your exposure will be spot on. In addition to this, you can use it to ensure you have a perfect white balance, no matter what the lighting conditions.

The results

I’ve not had much of a chance to play with my new card, but initial results have been quite encouraging. Sorry about the subject of the following photo, but as you can see the exposure is quite good, as is the colour rendition:

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So there you have it - a first attempt. I’ll probably post more on this subject as I get used to the techniques, so watch this space. I’m sure you can’t wait…

Hmmm, new pillows

I got some new pillows the other day: they’re very comfy :-)

Top of the British Blogs - Ideas

The Top of the BritBlogs Charts have been running for a little while now, and on the whole the feedback has been positive.

As I have said, once our new server arrives (wondering where it is - must call the web host tomorrow. Can they do anything right?) I plan on storing all the results for the charts on a daily basis. At the moment I load up the top and bottom 20 blogs, and only display the top and bottom 10 blogs. This gives me a buffer in case any of the chart members become inactive members and get pulled from the charts.

Another thing that I don’t seem to be able to make clear is that the charts are not a traffic count! We do not pretend to do the work that a third party site traffic meter does, and we even apply limits on what we consider to be a ‘read’. The important thing about the charts is that all the member sites are measured in the same way.

Anyway, the following is a list of things I plan on doing to the charts in due course. Your comments are invited, and I will try to ensure that these meet the general approval of any interested parties.

Remove numbers (score) from the charts.
I think these confuse the issue, as people think that the number is a direct representation of traffic/page impressions. It is not.
Offset the Bottom 10 Blogs by a small amount.
We’re getting the same blogs in the bottom charts each day, and usually this is because the tracking image hasn’t been implemented correctly by the blogger. (The other reason is that some of these blogs may be dreadfully dull, but I can’t comment on that).

The goal of the bottom charts is to promote the less popular blogs - that doesn’t mean they have to be the least popular blogs in the chart. By showing blogs that aren’t quite in the bottom 10, we encourage members to try and generate some traffic themselves (by leaving comments on other sites, for example) and with luck, the blogs we list will change a bit more regularly.

I have also discovered one or two sites abusing the system by forging only one request a day in order to get the link from BritBlog. Not good.

Ranking all blogs that take part in the charts
Several people have asked if we can do this, and once I store all the result data this will be something we can do. If you are currently number 11 for example, you have no idea that you just missed the top 10! I plan on listing your current rank on your individual blog profile page.
Monthly roundups
Once I am storing all the daily results, I can do monthly summaries of the results to provide a better overview of what is going on in the British Blog World. I’ve thought about weekly roundups too, but this may just be overkill.

That’s all for the mean time - not so much to do, but I’d appreciate feedback before I do the work!