Category Archives: Digital

Civic Centre, Bus Station and Cityscape attempt

My attempt at a cityscape from the highest point in Plymouth, Blockhouse Park, did not go to plan as I’ll describe later.  So on Sunday I went into town to take some more pictures of Bretonside Bus Station.  The weather was not on my side this weekend, being cloudy and overcast after a worse night.

I noticed the sun breaking through the cloud and reflecting off the old Civic Centre building, so I took this shot:

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My second trip to Bretonside Bus Station still failed to produce images that I was satisfied with, although I kind of like this one:

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This is one I’ll have to return to when the weather is less overcast.

My trip to Blockhouse Park, didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped. The weather was dry, so I assumed there would be no problems. I didn’t anticipate the winds blowing my cheap, flimsy tripod all over the place during long exposures. I had to hold the camera down by hand for the most part, meaning camera shake was a problem.

The best shot I managed to take was this one, purely because of the lack of camera shake:

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I did manage to create a panorama, although it is far from perfect:

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This is another one I’ll have to return to when the weather conditions are better.

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Mobile Phone Photography

In my last post I mentioned that I was getting lazy about my photography. I wasn’t going out with my camera as much. However, I didn’t consider my smartphone as a way of keeping my hand in when I’m on the go.

Over the past five or so years, mobile photography seems to have taken off thanks to websites like Instagram. Millions of people upload their iPhone snapshots daily, and it has even led to influencing the style of high profile advertising campaigns.

Granted, most of these shots are pictures of people’s breakfast, their cat, or hen party snapshots. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t mobile photographers taking pictures of serious quality. Communities like Grryo show the medium’s potential for storytelling, while IPA features some amazing galleries and even offer a printing service that caters for mobile photography.  Both communities show that mobile photography has potential beyond snapshots of your cat/dog/lunch.

It’s often said that the proliferation of smartphones means that we all have a powerful HD-ready DSLR and video camera in our backpocket.  In my case, it is more like one of those instant point-and-shoot cameras you used to buy from Boots for your holidays.

When I buy a smartphone, I never take the quality of the camera into consideration. I already have two digital cameras, so it’s not an important factor to me.  So I own a Google Nexus 5, which doesn’t have a bad camera, but any entry-level DSLR could beat it.

It’s not a terrible camera, but it lacks some basic functions, like controlling shutter speed, aperture, white balance, etc.  There is some control over the exposure, focus and flash, and the option to create a panorama and HDR images.  These are nice add-ons, but it’s not as good as my DSLR.

The shots work okay in certain conditions, providing the lighting is right.  For example, it doesn’t do too well in low light conditions, as you can tell by the amount of noise in these shots:

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Having said that, I could have improved the above by adjusting the exposure – a function I didn’t even know I had at the time.  The shots I took in shady daylight conditions weren’t great either:

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However, the above could be improved with some simple adjustments in Photoshop, meaning that there is hope of taking some decent shots in these conditions.  The below aren’t the most amazing shots, but demonstrate that these images can be improved in post-production:

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The image on the right is still over-exposed in the sky, but at last the street art can be seen.  Sadly, I couldn’t save the night shots.

I did take some shots that show that my phone camera can take decent shots if the lighting is right.  I think these shots demonstrate that my camera phone has potential, especially for street photography:

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The above shots might not be amazing, but I don’t really expect that from my smartphone camera.  I’ve decided to use it as a visual notebook.  Even the poor quality snapshots that I randomly take could spark new ideas and become the basis of a photography trip, and could benefit my Documenting Plymouth series.

Testing Neutral Density Filters

I had second thoughts about posting this experiment. I decided to try out my neutral density filters, to see what effect they would have on my pictures. There are ways to replicate the effect in Photoshop, but I thought that since I had these filters lying around that I might as well give them a try. The experiment wasn’t exactly a success, and the pictures I took were not as well taken as I thought they were at the time.

However, it’s been a while since I’ve posted any content on this blog, so I thought I should give an update on my learning process. Also, I was testing the effect the filter had on the image, rather than the image itself. So apologies to anyone expecting better than snapshot-quality pictures. Hopefully my next projects will be better.

So here was the first image, taken without the filter. It looks like I forgot to adjust the white balance to compensate for the glare of the sun. Not to mention the fact that the horizon isn’t even straight.

Here is the second image, taken with the filter attached. As you can see, it doesn’t filter out noise, but it does filter out the light coming in. It also seems to have had an effect on the colour, toning down the blue colour of the picture.

I think the filter would have had greater impact had I taken the picture when there were dark rain clouds in an overcast sky, or with choppier waters.

Having said all this, the filter I used was the lowest strength. Mine was an ND2 – apparently you can get an ND6 and ND8. So perhaps I shouldn’t have expected dramatic results.