Weekly Photo Challenge: Wrong (Zemanta links limit)

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This is not strictly a weekly photo challenge more of a gripe, but please read on as I think it’s important to us all. The subject this week is WRONG and I thought it was an ideal time to highlight this problem which has just started occurring. I’ve always been a firm believer in using the related links on my blog and generally I rely on Zemanta to point me to those links. If you’re not using Zemanta, why not? It comes free with your blog and I really recommend its use. What does it do? In a nutshell Zemanta will suggest photographs, links and keywords for you to include while you are writing your blog post. I never use the photographs, on my blog they’re all my own, but I do use Zemanta to find blog posts that are entitled Weekly Photo Challenge. These are what I insert as related links.

Sometimes I can reach up to about 40 related links which previously Zemanta has faithfully supplied. Once I insert them into my article a pingback is initiated to your blog should you happen to be on the list. That was until last week. Suddenly I find that I can only insert a maximum of 10 links. Either WordPress or Zemanta has imposed an arbitrary limit, without notification.

I’ve looked on the WordPress Support pages, currently they are still advising that you can use as many related articles as you like so either there is a fault or they need to update the advice. Talking of WordPress Support, have you ever tried to contact them? I have found no matter how you answer those 3 questions you will always end up in the forums. Now the forums are good, there are some very knowledgeable people on there, but no one seems to be able to provide an answer to this problem, if that’s what it is. Here’s what it looks like when you try to insert that additional link.

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That’s not very clear but to the right you can see that Zemanta has successfully displayed what the elated link is about. But, that grey box just to the side of it says you’ve reached your maximum of 10 inserts. I really do find this very frustrating.

If you are a Zemanta user are you finding the same problem? Or is everything ok with you. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Pentax K-30 Low Light

 

Pentax K-30 Low Light

The Pentax K-30 is really starting to impress me. I was walking back up from the beach having just completed a sunset shoot, you can see that here, and decided to stop off and photograph these buildings.

I’m still experimenting with the K-30 and by now the available light was getting pretty low. Normally for something like this I would get the tripod out but I was tired and just wanted to get home. The Pentax K-30 has a lot of preset shooting modes you can use, including one called night scene, which came out better than I thought it would, especially when you see the settings the camera used,

  • ISO 6400
  • f4
  • 1/25 second

Yes, it’s a bit noisy, that’s probably due to the high ISO speed, but nothing I can’t clean up using Topaz De-Noise. More importantly, it’s not blurred, considering the slow shutter speed and being hand-held. Must be due to the in-camera shake reduction.

All-in-all I’m pretty pleased with the Pentax K-30

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Wrong

 

wrong

What’s wrong with this image. Not so much, but it is overexposed and wouldn’t be easy to correct. It’s slightly blurred as well but I’m an optimist and I believe that no matter how bad a photograph is, you can always do something with it. For that reason I never throw anything away. Although this might not make a good photograph it can always be used to create something that I call Digital Art.

First thing I did with this photograph was to run it through my HDR program. Why? Because HDR will bring out some of the detail and enhance the colours a little bit.

Next, I used some of my favourite Photoshop filters on it, these are from, Topaz Labs and NIK Software. I have the complete suite of Topaz filters, They’re great for creative effects, but also for just enhancing photographs. Likewise NIK Colour Efex. It’s one of the best plugins for enhancing detail and tonal ranges in photographs and nearly all of my photographs get the NIK treatment to some degree.

Anyway, I said even a poor photograph can be used to create Digital Art, it’s just up to your imagination and this is what my imagination came up with.

After

Some of you might like it, some not, but next time you take a photograph and you’re considering whether it’s worth keeping, keep it. Have a play with Photoshop or whatever editor you use. It’s a great and fun way of learning how you to use your photo-editing program, as well.

 

Silhouette

 

Sunset

Beautiful evening tonight with a sunset that was worth capturing. Taken on the beach at Prestatyn, these groyne markers are almost completely submerged at high tide.

Technical Note. Pentax K-30, with Pentax 18-55 mm WR lens. F11, ISO Auto, bracket of 3 exposures (-2 to +2). HDR processed with Machinery HDR Effects, post processed in Adobe Photoshop Elements.

 

Pentax K-30 & Sigma 150-500mm Lens

I was at Conwy RSPB Reserve today carrying out some tests of my new Pentax K-30 with the big zoom lens. The weather wasn’t great with a threat of rain and I could see it was already raining over the mountains in Snowdonia. The RSPB reserve is a natural haven for  wild birds, so it’s perfect for testing the camera. For this little exercise I used Shutter Priority and set the shutter speed  to 1/1000 second. I left the ISO on Auto ISO letting the camera choose whatever was best for the sceneLittle Egret

Now I’m not that great at identifying birds but I find they are a good challenge to photograph. However, I’m almost certain this is a Little Egret

The Sigma 150-500mm lens is not a macro lens but it does allow me to take close-ups of insects.

Hovering Bee

Combined with the high shutter speed of the Pentax K-30 I’m able to freeze the motion, well almost, those little wings must be really going some. I read somewhere it’s about 180 beats a second.

Here’s another one. I wonder if I set the shutter speed to 1/6000 second could I freeze the action.

Hover

I’m really liking this camera, it’s so much better than my old one. I’d never have been able to capture the three photographs above so easily. Right, moving on.

Diving

I caught this young gull diving into the river for fish. I prefer to photograph the young gulls because their plumage is so much more interesting than the boring white and grey of the adult. The downside is the beak is dark and doesn’t stand out as much.

Staying on birds flying. That Little Egret that I started with didn’t hang around long and I managed to catch it as it flew off across the lake.

Little Egret Flight

In some ways I was a bit disappointed. There weren’t too many interesting birds around and it was beginning to rain quite heavy. The Pentax K-30 is weather proof but the Sigma lens is not and by now I was out on a really exposed part of the reserve with no shelter nearby. Fortunately I always go equipped for the vagaries of the British summer and was able to cover up the lens and camera.

Me! I got wet, it’s not the first time and probably won’t be the last. Just as quick as the rain came off the mountains the sun came out and pretty soon I was getting dried out. Time for another photograph.

Goldcrest

This little Goldfinch was standing on a branch fluffing the feathers out to dry off. Directly beneath it were another two making use of one of the bird feeders which are dotted around the reserve.

Gulls In Flight

I’ll finish with this photo of two young gulls taking off from the lake. You can see the splashes in the water just behind the lower gull as it lifts off.

I hope you enjoyed this short photo set with me. If you have any questions about the Pentax K-30 or any of the photographs, please feel free to leave a comment or contact me. I’ll do me best to answer you as soon as possible, but I’m off to the Olympic Games again, so there might be a slight delay in me replying.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Growth

 

Moon

For this weeks challenge I thought I’d show you a picture of the moon that I took a while back. Now you might be thinking “What has the moon got to do with growth?” Well, the moon grows every month from a tiny sliver of a crescent into a great big ball in the sky.

Alright! I know it’s a bit of a tenuous link to this weeks theme, but bear with me.

Did you know that Agricultural Astrology. sometimes referred to as “planting by the signs” makes use of astrological signs for planting, cultivating and harvesting. Guess what it’s based on? Phases of the moon and astrological signs. Maybe not so tenuous after all.

Agricultural Astrology is one of the oldest forms of astrology. Evidence of its practice dates back thousands of years to the ancient people of the Nile and Euphrates River valleys, where farmers of these civilizations planted by the Moon‘s phase and its sign in the zodiac.

Although I had never heard of it until today “The Old Farmer’s Almanac“, first published in 1792 regularly features a “planting by the signs” section.

Although Agricultural Astrology is primarily used as a guide for growing crops, it has also been applied to the practice of animal husbandry. For example, Agricultural Astrology encourages poultry farmers to set up their chicken’s eggs to hatch when it is a new moon and in a “fruitful” sign. It claims that chicks hatched during this time grow faster and produce more offspring.

Well do you believe it? Can the phases of the moon influence crop growth? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this…

 

Olympic Photographs, Not On Here

 

This Way, Please!

The rules and conditions for using a camera at the Olympic games are pretty draconian, for instance;

Section 19.6.3 states that: “Images, video and sound recordings of the Games taken by a ticket holder cannot be used for any purpose other than for private and domestic purposes and a ticket holder may not license, broadcast or publish video and/or sound recordings, including on social networking websites and the internet more generally”.

For that reason I won’t be showing you any of the photographs I took inside the stadium. Instead you will have to settle for this one. It’s a photograph of a friendly volunteer guiding us to the stadium. The gentleman was happy for me to take his photograph and hopefully I will not fall foul of the above rule. To make sure I have blurred out all of the logos, not only on the clothes he is wearing, but also on the two bottles behind him. As an additional precaution I have also blurred the passes the gentleman is wearing.

Tomorrow, I am going to Old Trafford, home of Manchester United. I won’t be taking a camera. Why not? Because in the list of prohibited items is this little statement;

Equipment which is capable of recording or transmitting any audio, visual or audio-visual material or any information or data. Mobile telephones are permitted provided they are used for personal and private use only provided that no audio, visual or audio-visual material captured by a mobile telephone may be published or otherwise made available to any third parties including via social networking site.

Old Trafford is a fantastic stadium. It would be nice to record my family standing outside it but I won’t be able to do that. My phone has a crappy camera. I bought it as a phone, not a camera. Besides I have perfectly good cameras more suited but I won’t take the chance on taking one and have it confiscated, never to be returned.

We want you to have an unforgettable time at the games

Just don’t bring a camera so you can record those memories and share with others.

 

All In A Row

 

All In A Row

A while back I had the good fortune to visit and tour around parts of Western Australia. One of the places I stayed at was right in the heart of the Yanchep National Park, beside Loch McNess, named after Sir Charles McNess, a wealthy Western Australian philanthropist.

Also known as Yanchep Lake and Wagardu Lark by the Nyoongar aboriginals, which along with the caves also in the National Park is of significant cultural importance.

Since European colonisation of the area it is possible to hire a dingy to row on the lake.

Technical Note. Bracket of 5 (-2 to +2) shot with a Samsung GX-10, tripod mounted, f8, ISO 100. HDR Processing with Machinery HDR Effects but I didn’t use the +2 bracket. Post in Adobe Photoshop Elements to remove some noise with Topaz De-Noise and finally cropped for upload to Flickr

 

HDR and the Pentax K30

My Set Up

I finally got around to trying out the HDR features of the Pentax K30. For this test I used JPEG as the file format, set the ISO to 100 and used f9 for the aperture. For the next test I will use RAW for the brackets

My subject was the lighthouse at Talacre Beach and just to add some interest it was raining, not heavy, but the beach is very exposed. Not only did I get wet, the K30 did as well, but it’s weather proof, as is the lens so it was a good test for that feature as well.

The Pentax K30 was mounted on a tripod and I used the shutter button to fire off the images. I’ve got a remote control from my previous Pentax Camera but just haven’t got round to checking if it will work with the K30.

HDR Settings

The Pentax K30 has 4 setting for HDR

  • HDR Auto
  • HDR 1
  • HDR 2
  • HDR 3

As well as using these settings I also fired off a set of 3 bracketed exposures from –2 to +2 which I processed in 3 different HDR programs, just for comparison with the in-camera HDR function

  • Machinery HDR Effects
  • PhotoMatix
  • SNS-HDR Pro

Processing

For the in-camera HDR images, the only post processing I did was to crop the image to 930 x 616 for posting to Flickr. No other processing was done. The HDR images which were software generated were also cropped to the same size, 930 x 616. I like my HDR to be pretty natural so I used the default preset for PhotoMatix and SNS-HDR Pro. Machinery HDR Effects has lots of presets, none of which you could call default, so I used the settings that I normally choose for my images.

Pentax K30 HDR Images

HDR Auto Image from the Pentax K30

K30 - HDR Auto

It’s a bit dark for me, but one thing that is impressing me is the DOF. With my old camera I struggled to get everything in focus from front to back. Let’s compare this to the 0 Ev from the bracketed set

Pentax K30 - Exposure Bracket  0 Ev

Personally I think the two images look almost identical, if anything the 0 Ev from the bracketed set looks a shade lighter. Next up is HDR 1

HDR 1 Image from the Pentax K30

Pentax K30 - HDR 1

Definitely better, still a bit dark though. The one thing I have not done here is to take any of the images into Adobe Photoshop Essentials and adjusted them. I wanted to show the output direct from the camera. HDR 2 and HDR 3 are unusable as far as I am concerned. Judge for yourself.

HDR 2 Image from the Pentax K30

Pentax K30 - HDR 2

HDR 3 Image from the Pentax K30

Pentax K30 - HDR 3

For comparison I will show you the output from the dedicated HDR programs. Each program has it’s own capabilities as I explained above

Dedicated HDR Software HDR Images

Each HDR program has it’s own unique capabilities and it’s really down to a matter of taste. I’ve processed them using the default settings for no other reason than I want to see which gives me the best output, with as little noise as possible from the supplied JPEG’s from the Pentax K30

Machinery HDR Effects

Pentax K30 - Exposure Bracket with Machinery HDR Effects

Of late Machinery HDR Effects has been my HDR program of choice. I find it has an intuitive interface and gives me consistent results.

HDRSoft PhotoMatix

Pentax K30 - Exposure Bracket with PhotoMatix

PhotoMatix is probably the choice of most people, but personally I’ve never really liked it. I never seem to get consistent results.

SNS-HDR Pro

Pentax K30 - Exposure Bracket with SNS-HDR

Before Machinery HDR Effects came along, SNS-HDR Pro was my usual HDR processing software. On  my computer it’s a bit slow to process but it does give consistent results every time and the images are very natural looking. One problem I found though was the output from my old Samsung GX-10 started to produce some weird results when processed with SNS-HDR Pro. However, I like this. It looks very natural and yet gives a more dramatic sky, exactly how I remember it today.

Conclusions

The Pentax K30 in-camera HDR is a nice idea, however I’m not sure that I will use it, and, if i did, it would probably only be HDR 1. Compared to the dedicated HDR programs it has some way to go. Saying that, I could probably use it at a pinch but I think the Jury is still out on this one.

I intend to repeat this test, only this time using RAW instead of JPEG. That’s if I can. I only picked the camera up on Wednesday last week. I spent the weekend at the London 2012 Olympic Games, so I’m still getting used to the camera and it’s settings. If I can use RAW with the HDR functions of the Pentax K30, I will then be able to decide if I could make use of the in-camera HDR function of the Pentax K30.

Update 01 August 2012.

According to the manual for the Pentax K30 in-camera HDR is not available when RAW is selected as the file format. That rather puts paid to my trialling RAW.

Further Update 01 August 2012

I did another test of the in-camera HDR Function, only this time I let the camera choose the ISO with Auto ISO. As I was in a Cathedral were photography using tripods, although not exactly frowned upon, is discouraged, I decided to try it hand-held, to see how the Pentax K30 managed. As I wasn’t using the tripod I didn’t exactly get my horizon straight. I really must turn on that feature as well. Anyway here are the results.

HDR Auto

Pentax K30 - HDR Automatic

A little over-blown in the highlights but definitely much more usable.