Change to Club Program. Friday 19th April

Change to Club Program.

Friday 19th April will now be a Slideshow Competition evening. The main purpose of the competition is to encourage all members, regardless of their ‘photographic ability’, to learn new ‘computer skills’ and prepare a slideshow. This is not part of our yearly official club competitions. It is only for a bit of fun and provide an evenings entertainment.

There will be two categories of entrant: ‘A’ and ‘B’.

‘A’, are folk who have been preparing computer generated slideshows for years and ‘B’, are folk who are relatively new to this.

You will notice that I haven’t used our club competition categories of ‘advanced ‘ and ‘novice’. These reflect your club standing in ‘photographic ability’. We may have folk who are club competition ‘advanced’ members but have never, or rarely, made a slideshow. They therefore would come under ‘B’ as folk who are new to the computer generated slideshow scene. So you will self select which category you think suits you best.


Therefore the rules are simple, and offered as guidelines to level the playing field of competition and also explain some expectations.
General Guidelines:

1. One entry per member.

2. We are a camera club, it’s all about your photography. Therefore we expect all the images / photos used in your slideshow to be yours.

3. As this is a slideshow competition, the main purpose of which is to encourage members to learn how to make a slideshow, the production or creation of the slideshow should be your own work. (Clearly not, I gave a friend some of my photos and they made this slideshow for me!)

4. Slideshows can be created on any computer or software. All we ask is that we can display it on the club ‘Windows’ computer. Therefore slideshows should be Windows exe’s (produced by ProShow or Pictures to Exe) or in mp4 format or almost any other video format, avi, etc., that we can display using VLC Media Player.

5. Please keep it short, 5 minutes maximum. Between 3 to 5 minutes works best!

6. File size, doesn’t matter, we will be copying all submissions to the club computer hard drive. (MP4’s, avi’s, etc. will be big and run better from the computer than from USB drives.)

7. Entries can be given to me or brought along on the evening.


If anyone needs some help or advice, please contact me.

“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 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.


The annual Ladies’ Night at Bangor and North Down Camera Club is an event much anticipated by the male members not only for the excellent nature of the refreshments provided but also for the quality of the photographic work on display.

Over the past few years there has been a growing female presence in the club and the girls have brought with them a welcome sense of fun and enjoyment as well as producing work of increasing ability. As Julie Campbell, M.C. for the evening mentioned most of the ladies had joined with little or no photographic experience and by attending the midweek workshops and tutorials had raised their levels of skill to the point where they are now competing with marked success in the club competitions.

Julie, who was a complete beginner just over a year ago produced an attractive collage of views from the North Coast including seascapes and sunsets.

Most of the presentations were in the form of audio-visual displays ; Deborah Carvill produced a photographic diary of her year with images from various locations. Deborah’s mother May accompanies her on many of her photographic forays but still manages to produce pictures with a different slant. Her portfolio included images of Bangor and Donegal. Christine Pearson thanked the senior members ,particularly David Roberts for the help and guidance on offer and read a little poem in praise of “Our Wee Club.”

Anne Groves produced a pleasant collection featuring flowers, children and local views while Angela Shannon showed images of her travels in Italy and France and explained how the club had rekindled her photographic interest when she joined last year.

Alli Martin, another new recruit last year produced her first audio-visual depicting her special interest in nature and wild life . Caroline Lismore-Kerr, similarly in her first year of membership displayed an artistic interpretation of her shots of family, pets and holidays in Donegal. Her daughter Liane made it a family affair employing a thoughtful approach to her collection of family and holiday shots.

Helen Fettus paid a pictorial tribute to Belfast with a trip around many of the city’s landmarks while Deborah Gardiner chose to follow the life of a blackberry from blossom to blackberry pie, mousse and crumble. Velia Martin presented a pictorial account of her restoration of a farmhouse in County Armagh and Shirley Graham opted to display a collection of her prints which admirably reflected the improvement in her work since she started coming to the club just three years ago.

The evening finished (after full justice was done to the supper) with a visual record of the girls’ day out at Crawfordsburn Park and a word of thanks to David Cooper who had added his expertise to the compilation of the presentations.


For two long years Lee Boyd painted clouds. Nothing else- just clouds. Almost every day he would take his easel and brushes and head for a favoured spot overlooking the beautiful Benone strand on the north coast and wait for the breeze to blow the cumulus and nimbus clouds in from the Atlantic Ocean. As he explained to the Bangor and North Down Camera Club it was an expression of his personal quest for artistic fulfilment that he had previously failed to find. The Middlesborough artist had come to Northern Ireland to study ceramics at the New University of Ulster but after graduating he had taken a post as a jewellery designer in Southampton where he ended up in a managerial position, financially successful but artistically sidetracked.
Heading back to Northern Ireland he trained as a stonemason and found an outlook for his creative aspirations in pottery and sculpture although, as he admitted to the club members there was still a missing component in his artistic quest – this he was to find in oil painting and the pursuit of the qualities inherent in abstract art. The dalliance with the clouds satisfied his desire to interpret the physical world as an artistic statement with a personal style.
The next stage of his developing awareness came with a desire to draw from life and he began rather humbly by sketching his cat – a willing model but limited in its possibilities so after success in a nationwide BBC wildlife competition he began to formulate the strand which now forms the basis of his artistic output – drawing humans with animal heads. Displaying a selection of these, at times bizarre hybrids Lee explained that he would study the humans first before deciding which animals’ heads best suited them in both a physical and characteristic manner. Friends and fellow artists appeared with owls, kangaroos and anteaters’ heads supplanted on their bodies and interest began to grow as a result of exhibitions and online exposure. A top local band commissioned a cover for their new album and were delighted with the stunning half-creatures, half musicians result.
Lee also explained the difficulties involved in sketching people from life – many subjects are reluctant to have their likeness recorded and it usually is too time-consuming to be practical so he enlisted the aid of his Iphone to record the initial image on occasions before applying his own, idiosyncratic interpretation on the picture. He sees no conflict of interest in using a camera for this purpose pointing out that an artist as eminent as David Hockney has earned universal appraisal for his photographically engendered works over the years.
He ended his engaging talk with a regretful acceptance that people don’t take time to see art any more. Even though they may go to a gallery and look at works generally a cursory glance is all that is afforded – a state of affairs Lee Boyd ascribed to the incessant bombardment of images, via television and the internet to which we are bombarded on a daily basis.

Wednesday 7th November.

Wednesday 7th November. We will have a studio session for folk wanting to learn more about taking photos in a studio environment. The second half of the evening will include our Audio Visual/Slideshow talk. I will use the AV prepared for Shirley, on Amsterdam, to include adding titles and generally polishing off the show (that was created in just 35 minutes!)

Wednesday 3rd October

At our camera club on Wednesday evenings we ask members, especially beginners, to bring along up to 10 photos to be projected and discussed. We use ‘Faststone Image Viewer’ to display the photos – as this is a free product.

Discussions about the photo often relate on how the image could be improved. Within Faststone, we can make some global changes with levels, shadow and highlight adjustments etc. However; often the feedback suggests that just one part of the image should be darkened, or lightened, or have more (or less) saturation. This we simply cannot do with Faststone.

In most cases we ask the author what software they are using, and then, try to quickly describe how this can be done with their software program. Everyone has their favourite software program, but once we start to discuss how to do something in, say Lightroom, everyone who doesn’t have Lightroom switches off 😉 The same applies to ‘Elements’, ‘Photoshop’, ‘Capture NX’ and so on.

To make a selective adjustment on just one area of the image – but not the rest – normally involves layers, masks, blending and opacity adjustments. And for many members, especially those new to digital photography (and perhaps computers), this is simply far too complicated.

So; next Wednesday, I will demonstrate Snapseed. This software allows you to quickly and easily make local selective adjustments. It is available for Windows, Mac, iPad, iPhone and an Android version is coming soon. And it’s cheap! Just under £13 for the Windows or Mac version. Just £2.99 for iPad/iPhone.

Once you see just how easy it is to make local selective adjustments, and how such adjustments can really improve your photos, I think you will be hooked!