Friday 25th January 2013 – Round 5 Open Competition


Bangor and North Down Camera Club  celebrated the first competition of 2013 with a healthy entry in all the sections and an encouraging turn out to witness the judging. Ian Lyons from Merville Photographic Club was the guest judge and he offered particular encouragement to the Foundation entrants with a comment and some advice to each member.

The range of subjects reflected the Open nature of the competition with landscapes, natural history ,sport and other categories on display.

Brian McMullan’s spectacular shot of an airborne motor-cyclist took first prize in the Foundation Colour section; Angela Shannon and Michael Rice took the other placings. Continue reading

Friday 18th January 2013 – Annual Audio Visual Evening

In the olden days, before the advent of digital photography holiday snaps were either pasted into an album or left to moulder in the dark confines of a forgotten drawer. Modern technology nowadays affords a choice of ways to preserve ones precious images. On Friday night the members of Bangor and North Down explored one such method – Audio-Visual presentations .

Various software packages have made it easy for even the beginners to gather their images and present them in an attractive display complete with musical backing and even a voice-over commentary if required. Quite a few first time efforts were on view along with those of the more experienced practitioners  and the themes were as varied as holiday snaps and natural history.

Alan Field offered some memories of a recent adventure in the Amazon while Alan Hartley demonstrated his landscape skills with a collection from the Scottish Highlands. Chairman Harry Watson recalled his days in South Africa with visual memories of photographic safaris  and David Roberts  revived pleasant memories of holiday cruises in a dramatic portrayal of the ice shows.

For an encore David showed sights of St Thomas and San Juan captured on a recent  Caribbean holiday.  After Noel Maitland’s take on the beauty of New Zealand’s scenery, Helen Fettus reminded everyone of the sights nearer home by concentrating on the landmarks of Belfast. Jack Thompson delighted the audience with a guided walk around Ballymacormick Point , enhanced by an engaging commentary.

Tenerife was Peter Gibson’s choice of subject while Shirley Graham exhibited a couple of presentations, one of which was completed as an exercise on how to make an A.V. from 100 images in thirty minutes. Christine Pearson meanwhile had her tongue firmly in her cheek when she screened a short, very funny homage to the club’s Ladies’ Night.

Mark Allen is currently running a class for beginners in the medium and it is hoped to introduce a new club competition in the near future. As an example he showed an example of his work which has won awards in the past.

John Bennett


“Not enough contrast, could be sharper!”

Hi Folks,

At the recent Northern Ireland Photographic Association (NIPA) ‘Beginners Competition’ the feedback on images that were not selected for shortlisting were:

“Not enough contrast”

“Not sharp”

When we show members photos up on the big screen and ask for and offer feedback, one of the most often tweaks made in Faststone Image viewer is to increase the contrast. This is simply done with a slider and almost everyone agrees that simply adding some more contrast really improves many an image.

Sharpness, on the other hand, is completely different! It reminds me of the Irishism of a tourist asking the local guy for directions – and is told, “Well if I was going there, I wouldn’t have started from here!”

You may not realise it, but sharpness is actually all about increasing the contrast of edges! I bet that has got you thinking

So where do we start? I can think of a number of starting points: the first being buy a tripod and use it. Learn how to use the self timer or wireless trigger with mirror up. Find out what is the sweet spot of your lens, in many cases it’s f/8 or f/11.

The second starting point; for hand held photography, is the basic knowledge of what I call the ‘holy trinity’ – of speed, aperture and ISO. Every photography must know this!

Briefly; this is the knowledge, gained from practice and experience, of what speed and at what focal length you can hand-hold your camera and still get a sharp image. This will change from lens to lens. Lenses with image stabilisation really do offer two stops leeway. On my 18-200 stabilised lens I know I can get away with, or go as low as 1/15s at 18mm and 1/125 at 200mm for a landscape with nothing moving in my frame. But I have practised this, often braced against something. Clearly; if something is moving in the frame and you want to get it sharp, you will have to up your speed accordingly. This is were the basic understanding of the ‘holy trinity’ comes in; knowing when and how to open up your lens, or increase the ISO, or both, to get the speed you need.

The third starting point, which comes after one and two above being properly applied, is taking the image in raw. If you don’t know how to sharpen a raw image properly for the desired end product, print or screen, then you might be better off taking in raw and jpg. The jpg will be sharpened in camera, the raw isn’t.

In our camera club we often advise new members to take in their photos in raw, as it allows so much more leeway in post production. But I suspect that, while this is true, many new members to photography and especially members new to computers may not have the knowledge, skills or experience to sharpen a raw image. So perhaps we should be advising them to take raw and jpg? Work on the already sharpened jpg and in years to come, when they have more experience and as the software improves and makes things easier, they can always re visit the raw file. I have often revisited my raw files and I know many other camera club members do the same.

Unsharp Mask (USM) is complex and for a novice, easily overdone. The Digital Photo type magazines often offer a step by step guide, saying apply a ‘Unsharp Mask of x.x.x’, but don’t explain why these settings work for one image and a different set of USM works for another. There are books written on this subject! However, products like Lightroom, offer sliders to adjust ‘vibrance’ (USM) and ‘structure’ (High Pass) to make things easier. These adjust the edge contrast, either in mid tones or globally.

For example: the raw image will need what is known as ‘capture sharpening’. ‘Lightroom’ can identify your camera make, sensor and lens and do a really good job of initial ‘capture sharpening’ and lens alignment, globally. ‘Dxo’ and ‘Capture One’ can do the do the same, sort of automatically, but also globally. I use Capture NX and have a batch process, or .set file that allows me to apply ‘capture sharpening’ based on what type of Nikon camera I am using. However, with CNX I can apply the ‘capture sharpening’ selectively

Within an image you may have areas that may require a different approach. Do you want to sharpen fine texture or coarse texture? Different raidi within the USM, that really needs to be applied selectively, rather than globally. Or perhaps using a ‘high pass’ instead, or in support to USM? This were Lightroom, the adjustment brush and ‘vibrance’ and ‘structure’ come in. (I don’t use Lightroom, but I know many of you do, and so I thought I should give it a plug, rather than go on about Capture NX )

Finally; for now, from raw you have to consider where the image is going. There are different approaches to sharpening for glossy paper, compared to matte paper (matte paper absorbs more ink) and a yet another different approach for web or projected image.

Food for thought? The difficulty is, of course, that everyone uses different software! As always, feedback is most welcome!

Friday 11th January 2013 – Alan Cranston – Life under the Surface


The members of Bangor and North Down Camera Club have been whisked away to some truly wondrous locations in recent weeks. Before Christmas Paul Evans presented a display of the celestial marvels, planets, stars and comets revealed by telescopes and camera lenses while on Friday night Alan Cranston went in the opposite direction when he shared his exciting images of journeys to the bottom of the earth’s oceans.

Alan, who has more than five hundred successful forays into the deep behind him began his illustrated talk with some remarkable photographs taken on various expeditions to the Red Sea. Most impressive were the scenes shot around some of the various shipwrecks- all of which have been clothed in a coating of multi-hued coral of various kinds.

These have attracted not only many divers but many different varieties of fish whose marvellous colours become iridescent under the powerful strobe lighting which is necessary equipment for any diver/photographer. The light intensity diminishes rapidly at depth and the colours merge into a subdued grey-brown so the pictures brought back to the surface sometimes bear little resemblance to the actual scene. Continue reading

Friday 18th January 2013

Friday 18th January: An AV Evening.

First of all; may I apologise for the confusion, all my fault. This is what we are going to do on Friday the 18th.

All members are invited to bring along one or more slide shows for an evening of entertainment and enjoyment. It is not a competition, the slideshow competition we had discussed on our Wednesday’s ‘Introduction to AV’s or Slide Shows’ may be held later in the year. We can talk more about that nearer the time.

Back to the 18th, contrary to what it says on the programme, shows do not have to be less than 3 minutes in length. They can be less than 3 mins, but they do not have to. They do not have to be new shows, if you have one that some may have seen before please bring it along as there will be folk who will not have seen it.


1. Most slide shows last between 4 to 5 minutes. Scientific research has shown grumpy members and those with the attention span of a goldfish, like me, tend to get restless and twitchy if the 5 minute barrier is crossed. So less than 5 minutes please 🙂

2. All shows must be playable on the clubs Windows computer. If you made your slide show in Pictures To Exe (PTE) or ProShow, then bring the exe file, not the project file. If you made your slide show in something else, and there are many programs that will create slide shows, then you should look for a ‘save as’ or ‘export’ or ‘ share’ option and select mp4. Do not select the option for DVD, Facebook, YouTube, Quicktime, etc. as these produce low quality imagery. Instead go for HD Video, or something like that. Be aware that it may take some time for your computer to create these high quality mp4’s and that the file size will be big.

At the camera club we use VLC Media Player (free for win and mac) as it will play everything that can be played! But it will not play mac app files or zips of a project, as these are not media files. If you need help or advice on this, just please let me know, here on this thread or on Wednesday 16th, speaking of which:

Wednesday 16th:

You may have a brand new, never seen before, slide show and want to keep your powder dry for friday the 18th and, if so, that’s fine. However; if you want a little help with perhaps one of your older shows, then please bring it along on Wednesday.

If you bring exe’s or mp4’s as discussed above, we can watch the show and offer advice. However; if you are a PTE user, please save your project as a zip and bring the zipped file. Doing this will allow us to really make some tweaks and adjustments to the project as we have PTE on our club computer.

On Wednesday’s we do what we want, so if there is the interest I can run over the basics again. Or I can cover any specific part of the process. But I suspect our time would be best served by helping novices to the AV/Slide Show world on how to improve their shows. As always, ideas and suggestions are most welcome.