Weekly Photo Challenge: Everyday Life

Weekly Photo Challenge: Everyday Life

It’s good to take a break now and again and last week I decided to go camping in beautiful Herefordshire. I had a really relaxing time, weather was fantastic and then I had to come back to reality.

Just before I left to go camping I installed Windows 8, which is still on a trial basis from Microsoft, onto my computer. I wanted to get ahead and check if it was worth upgrading when Microsoft releases their new operating system in about a months time. All I’m going to say is that I’m now back on Windows 7 and I can’t see me upgrading in the near future.

This weeks challenge photo was taken in the Ladies’ Market on Tung Choi Street, Hong Kong. There are over a 100 stalls of clothing, accessories and souvenirs and it’s a great place to practice your haggling skills. The market stretches for about a kilometre and gets its name from the huge amount of clothing and accessories on sale for women of all ages

You can also find “designer label” watches, cosmetics, bags, CD’s on sale in the market and there’s always a vast catalogue of items to choose from. A little while back if you had asked me what were the three most used words in the English Language I would probably have said “I Love You”, nowadays I hear it is “Made in China”, Need I say more…..

Anyway my photograph is slightly wonky because using cameras is not always appreciated on the market.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Near and Far



Near and Far

How appropriate that this weeks challenge is “Near and Far”. At the moment I am sitting by the riverside writing this article off-line using Windows Live Writer. It’s a beautiful sunny day, quite hot, there are dragonflies and honey bees flying near me. I feel near to nature, and yet, it’s not peaceful. On the far side of the river they’re busy gathering in the harvest and with today’s modern farming you have great big combine harvesters moving up and down the fields. They’re noisy, dusty and the smell of diesel fumes are heavy on the air. I wish they were far, far away and not so near.

Anyway to today’s photograph. I woke up this morning to a heavy, low-lying mist, not unusual when you are camping near a river, but I must admit entirely unexpected. Last night there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and due to the relatively low light pollution there were so many stars in the “heavens”. It’s almost impossible to comprehend how long, with today’s technology, we would have to travel to reach our nearest star. Anyway I digress, back to the picture. As it was really misty, I decided to take a walk along the riverside and see if I could capture something really atmospheric. I took lots of photographs then thought about one for “Near and Far”. Mist and more so fog can easily distort our perception of distance but the way marker is near enough that you can read the notice on it. The tree in the distance is far enough way to look as though I have used a diffused focus lens but in reality it’s the effect of the morning mist.

Normally I only show one photograph for the weekly photo challenge but this week is a bit of an exception. I’d like to leave you with a few more from my walk along the riverside. I hope you like them?

These three trees only started to emerge from the mist as I got nearer to them. Not quite by the riverside but I was standing right on the river bank to take this.Three Trees

I’ve been talking about the riverside and thought maybe I should show you a photograph. This is the River Wye in Herefordshire. It’s one of those rivers that wind backwards and forwards in parts and is used for recreational purposes like canoeing and fishing.

The Riverside

That’s all from me. I’m going to take a walk along the river now and see if I can pick up a wi-fi signal from the local pub. Hopefully I will which means I will be able to post this article today instead of waiting until I get home on Monday evening.


It’s quiet here….

No photographs, nothing, just a quick hello. I’m on a really slow wi-fi network at the side a river somewhere in deepest Herefordshire. I think I’m picking up the network of the pub behind me.

Anyway, normal service will be resumed next week when I finally get back home. Why am I in Herefordshire? Simple really, for what else but the photography. The county of Hereford has some of the prettiest villages in England, many of them with those old Black and White Houses that you used to see on chocolate boxes or jigsaw puzzles.

As well as the photography I’m taking a break, sitting by the river and just watching the world go by…..

Weekly Photo Challenge: Free Spirit


As soon as I saw this weeks challenge I knew which photograph I was going to use. Here’s the background. Our stretch of the coast has beautiful flat sandy beaches with sand dunes behind On the 26 February 1990, a combination of high tides and extreme weather broke through the sea defences causing flooding, resulting in about 2,000 people being evacuated from their homes and businesses.

Along our part of the coast the sea defences have been improved since then, just as well because strong northerly winds drive the waves inshore really fast. Those waves break against the rocks and concrete walls of the new sea defences, throwing plumes of spray high into the air, which makes for great photography when the tides in. And that’s where I was on a sunny but very windy day when I heard the “skirl o’ the pipes”. The Scotsman in me just couldn’t ignore it, a slow lament carrying on the wind, I just had to investigate.

But where was it coming from?  I thought I was the only mad person out there, that is apart from the arm-chair drivers who park on the seafront and never get out of their cars.

Now the sound of the pipes can easily travel 2 to 3 miles if the wind is in the right direction. Our seafront is about four miles long but I thought I could vaguely make out the shape of someone walking along the furthest point of the sea wall about a mile from me. The sound was coming from that direction so off I set to investigate. I’m glad I did. Each year the gentleman pictured here comes to Prestatyn, to play his pipes. In fact it’s nearly the anniversary of his last visit so I’m hoping to get down on the seafront to see if he’s there.

Photomerge Exposure


The HDR community has been talking a lot about using Photoshop CS6 and Lightroom to create HDR images which look much more natural.[1]

Just recently I read an article by Andrew Steele in HDR One, the online magazine dedicated to HDR about this very process.[2] The idea is that you use the Merge To HDR facility in Lightroom to send your brackets to Photoshop’s HDR Pro and then bring the 32 bit HDR file, saved as a TIFF, back to Lightroom for final adjustments.


Adobe Photoshop CS6 – Merge to HDR

In Lightroom you only have 3 sliders to worry about,

  • Highlights (fully to the left)
  • Shadows (fully to the right)
  • Clarity (generally, fully to the right)

Sounds pretty simple and if, like me, you prefer to create more natural looking images, it’s definitely something I’d like to investigate. However, not everyone has Photoshop CS6 and Lightroom, I know I don’t, but I have downloaded 30 day trial versions of both, enabling me to give it a try.

In the meantime, I was wondering if good results could be achieved using PhotoMatix, probably the most used HDR software, and say Photoshop Elements.

Straight away, I’ve run into a problem. Photoshop and Lightroom can work with 32 bit TIFF files, and that’s what this procedure calls for. Elements, however is strictly 16 bit and the HDR file from PhotoMatix is 32 bit, meaning Elements will not open the PhotoMatix file.

But there is a solution of sorts. Photoshop Elements has guided modules and one of those modules is called PhotoMerge Exposure.


Adobe PhotoShop Elements – Photomerge Exposure

Adobe recommend Photomerge Exposure to efficiently handle scenes in photos with exposure challenges. You can blend two photos together to get a perfectly exposed photo. Sounds familiar.

Steve mentioned in his article that the Lightroom/ Photoshop combination didn’t work so well in all situations. I’d be interested to see if this was the case with Elements. For this little test I’m going to be trying a combination of different situations, using both Elements and the Lightroom/Photoshop combination.

  • Daytime
  • Sunset
  • Inside
  • Hand Held
  • On a Tripod

So let’s get started. If you want to see larger versions of these images (1360 x 900) just click on the image and it will take you to my Flickr account.


Adobe Photoshop CS6 – Merge to HDR

Taken on a rainy, grey day, using the tripod. This was a bracket of 3 (-2 to +2) from a Pentax K-30. Here’s the Adobe Elements version.


Adobe PhotoShop Elements – Photomerge Exposure

After the Photomerge Exposure, all I did was get Elements to Auto Smart Fix the image. It’s a one step procedure, which corrects overall colour balance and improves shadow and highlight detail, if necessary. Is that what Lightroom’s three sliders, Highlights, Shadows and Clarity are doing? I’m not sure but I know what version of the two above I like.

The next image was taken on a sunny but cloudy day. It’s a bracket of 3 again (-2 to +2) only this time it’s hand-held. First up I’ll show you the Photoshop version


Adobe Photoshop CS6 – Merge to HDR

I don’t really know what to say about this one. I did have to dial back the clarity slider because the whole image just  looked too harsh. Bright sunlight doesn’t look good, that’s for sure. Let’s see what Elements can do.


Adobe PhotoShop Elements – Photomerge Exposure

Much better, I used the same procedure as the earlier image, finishing it off by using Auto Smart Fix. One thing I will say, I like the colour and tone of this image, it doesn’t look as harsh as the Photoshop version, but I’m not so sure about the shadow area at the base of the tree. It’s just a little too dark.

For my next image I’m going to move inside to Wells Cathedral and the cloisters


Adobe Photoshop CS6 – Merge to HDR

Photoshop has done a good job with this one. You can clearly see the door at the end of the passage, especially if you enlarge the image. You’ll also notice the ghosting of the lady in red. My fault, I forgot to correct it. This is a bracket of 5 (-2 to +2), the camera was mounted on a tripod.

OK! The Elements version for comparison.


Adobe PhotoShop Elements – Photomerge Exposure

Here I think the saturation is a bit too strong. I could dial it back but I wanted to show the images, without any additional processing. The only exception was the church which really was extremely harsh. I have a problem though. Once again the shadows look a little too dark. In the larger, full-scale image on Flickr you can see the door but only just. On the plus side, Elements took care of the ghosting automatically.

Staying inside, this is a bracket of three (-2 to +2). I wasn’t allowed to set up the tripod so it had to be a bit of a snatched shot. Outside was a bright sunny day with clear blue skies. As usual I will present the Photoshop version first.


Adobe Photoshop CS6 – Merge to HDR

It’s pretty obvious what is wrong here. Something has gown wrong at the alignment stage in the Merge To HDR. Either that or Photoshop could handle the mis-alignment of the images. How did Elements manage this one?


Adobe PhotoShop Elements – Photomerge Exposure

You can see that the alignment is fine, once again the colours look richer, but of concern is the dome area, where those golden stars are just a black mass.

My final image is a bracket set of 5 (-2 to +2) and is hand-held. It was taken in southern Spain on a sunny day in early spring.


Adobe Photoshop CS6 – Merge to HDR

Probably in these two images is the difference between both methods most obvious, The upper image is brighter, looks sharper, but in that brightness the sky has almost lost definition. Whereas, the bottom image looks softer, but you can definitely see the clouds and overall colour is certainly different from the top image


Adobe PhotoShop Elements – Photomerge Exposure

If I were seriously going to use this as an alternative to tone-mapping I would go with the Adobe Photoshop Elements every time. I just prefer the results that can be achieved, with the exception of the shadow areas, which could be considerably brighter.

[1] Trey’s Variety Hour – Episode 48

[2] 32 Bit HDR File Editing


Weekly Photo Challenge: Urban



My entry for this weeks challenge is a bit late, well late for me. I’m sitting in my study looking out into the garden on a rainy public holiday day (why does it always rain) and I’m behind schedule.

I’ve got three projects on the go, four if you count this one and I’m running out of time, fast.

This weeks image was taken in Den Bosch in the Netherlands. I’d flown in from the UK, early morning on a business trip and had the afternoon to kill before catching the evening flight home. Bicycles typify the Netherlands for me, they’re everywhere, in the towns and cities and the country. Cycling in the Netherlands is a common and popular method of transport and recreation, accounting for 27% all trips nationwide, and up to 59% of all trips in its cities.

One of the scariest moments I’ve ever had when driving involved bicycles.”Strict liability”, supported by law in the Netherlands, leads to driver’s being deemed to be responsible in a collision between a car and a cyclist. I had the misfortune to drive through the centre of Eindhoven just as employees at the old Philips Electrical factory were leaving for the end of the day. Hundreds of bicycles in front, behind and to the sides, some just inches away. Worse still they were cutting across my path as well. Absolutely frightening..

Anyway back to the photograph. As I had time to spare I took my camera for a walk through the old part of the town. As many towns in the Netherlands are closed to cars you see bicycles in use everywhere, but they have to be parked somewhere.and the image above is typical. For me it made a great photo opportunity.

Hey! I didn’t use the word Urban once..





I’ve switched back to PhotoMatix for a while and then did final post processing of the HDR image with Topaz photoFXLab. I quite like the results I’m getting from this.


Medieval Church


Medieval Church

Llanrhaeadr-yng-Nghinmeirch is a village in Denbighshire, Wales. It lies in the Vale of Clwyd near the A525 road between Denbigh and Ruthin. The medieval parish church of St Dyfnog contains a Tree of Jesse window, dating from 1533, described as “the finest glass window in all Wales, exceeded by few in England”, which was originally part of Basingwerk Abbey near Holywell. Nearby is St Dyfnog’s Well, once a destination for pilgrims.


Capture The Colour

Somehow or other this morning I found my way on to Jason Teale’s blog and noticed an article about Capture the Colour a competition run by TravelSupermarket.com.

The idea is quite simple, show 5 photographs on your blog using the theme Blue, Green, Yellow, White and Red, and write about them. Nothing could be simpler. Could it? Oh! And while you’re at it nominate five other bloggers.

They say a picture paints a thousand words. Well, rather than asking you to write a five thousand word blog post, we’re inviting you to produce a blog post with up to 5 photos that really do ‘Capture the Colour’.

First I had to decide what photographs to use and since the sponsors of this competition are TravelSupermarket.com I used photographs from my travels around the world.

I’ve been lucky that I am fit, healthy and can afford to travel which has allowed me to visit some great countries over the years and I’d like to share some of them with you. I’ll start my journey in Australia and end up in America, travelling east to west.

I had a difficult decision to make about my first photograph. Should I go with something that was pre-dominantly Blue or show something with just a splash of colour.

All In A Row

The splash of blue won. This line of boats, for hire at Loch McNess in the Yanchep National Park, Western Australia caught my eye as I went for an early morning walk. It’s one of my favourite times of the day for photography, water can be quite still and mirror like, you get nice long shadows which can break up wide open spaces, and best of all, no one about to walk into the camera’s field of view.

Leaving Australia, we’re off to Hong Kong next and this photograph of Star Ferries, Twinkling Star, crossing Hong Kong Harbour.

Twinkling Star

The Star Ferry Company, is a passenger ferry service operator and has long been a tourist attraction in Hong Kong. It was founded in 1888 as the Kowloon Ferry Company, but later changed to its present name in 1898. The fleet of twelve ferries carry passengers across Victoria Harbour, between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Between them, the ferries carry over 70,000 passengers a day and is a really inexpensive way of crossing the harbour. Every time I go to Hong Kong I make sure I take at least one ride on a Star Ferry, for no other reason than I really enjoy it. I love the hustle and bustle of the ferry terminal, the mad rush to get on, the harbour crossing and then trying to get off the ferry again when the ramps are moving up and down. If you look at the centre of  the Twinkling Star you can see the passenger ramps, one Green and one white.

Moving on to Continental Europe now and Spain. I missed out most of Asia because I’ve never visited. Some of the countries like Vietnam, India, Thailand and China are on my list, but you know how it  goes..

Olive Groves

Anyway, I love Spain in the springtime. The fields become carpeted with lots of these yellow buttercups like you can see here in this Olive Grove. This photograph was taken late in the afternoon and the flowers had started to close up. so they are not as bright as they could be. I’ve heard so many stories about these buttercups. Some Spanish farmers will leave them alone and won’t touch them. They believe that the buttercups provide nourishment for the olive trees and also protect them. Others do take them away and many Brits who live in Spain do not allow them to grow below their trees. As a photographer I suppose I am selfish and hope that they stay because in my opinion they do make for a good photograph. It’s hard to believe that as the year progresses and summer reaches it full height, these fields will become dry dusty landscapes.

I like to travel but sometimes that old saying “There’s No Place Like Home” does fit. North Wales where I currently call home has some magnificent flat sandy beaches and amazing sunsets. Yet, just a short drive and I can be visiting the mountains and lakes of the Snowdonia National Park. For my White image I’d like to show you the old lighthouse on Talacre Beach, five minutes drive from my house.

Talacre Lighthouse

The lighthouse has long since been abandoned, but it was shown briefly in a recent paint advert with an Old English Sheep Dog mascot. Yes, the lighthouse does lean. Oh! If you are interested it’s up for sale, but beware, at high tide you are cut off from land and this part of the coast can get quite stormy seas in winter time.

My final destination takes us to the Hoover Dam and the plaque to the workers who died during the construction of the dam. All right, it’s a bit tenuous with the link to Red but those rocks behind the memorial sort of fit the bill.

Hoover Dam Memorial

Designed by Oskar Hansen the plaque commemorates the 96 men who officially died during the construction of Hoover Dam. Originally it was set into the canyon wall on the Arizona side of the dam, but is now located on the Nevada side. It reads:

They died to make the desert bloom. The United States of America will continue to remember that many who toiled here found their final rest while engaged in the building of this dam. The United States of America will continue to remember the services of all who labored to clothe with substance the plans of those who first visioned the building of this dam.

I hope you have enjoyed my very brief tour. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions, as usual I’ll do my best to answer them.

That’s the blog part done, now I’ve got to nominate five other bloggers


Judy blogs about photography, her home, garden and crafts.


Patti shares her photographs of events and people in New York.


Francine shows us life through her photography.


Keira shows us photos, comments and writes about where she lives, Mt Lawley/Highgate/North Perth.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Merge


Interesting challenge this week considering that only last week I was talking about Digital Art. I’m going to walk you through some of the steps I took in creating a Vintage Travellers Diary, which involves using Photoshop Brushes and merging in many photographs to create the final image.

diary final

Each of the elements that you see here are merged into the base background. It would take me far too long to show you all of the steps but I’d like to try and give you an idea of how an image like this is created. Lets start with the background.


The background is made from a textured photograph; the maps are Photoshop brushes applied over the top.

Next I will add the notebook and the three photographs, which themselves are merged items, a photograph of a polaroid frame and 3 of my photographs


That notebook looks blank at the moment so the next step is to fill it in.

pictures and text

I’ve added some additional photographs, putting some underneath the left hand pages and some on top with a paperclip. On the right page, it’s a Photoshop brush again and then some text over the top.

Finally, to complete the Vintage Travellers Diary I added the torn card, the coffee cup and the compass as you see in the first image at the top of the page.

If you want to have a go yourself at creating The Vintage Travellers Diary then follow this link to the original tutorial (not mine unfortunately).