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brian - January 2006


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happy new year

nice for once to get a dry new year's day (or at least part of the day) for a bike ride.

full of enthusiasm for completing the weekly mileage chart that came with the comic but as the numbers at the foot of the columns become embarrassingly low as the year progresses, the enthusiasm usually wanes.

here's hoping it works the other way this year


Posted on brian at 08:47



homeless

managed the espresso run tuesday afternoon for the last cup until march. (and a fine one it was too, even though there was no carrot cake:-)

with the croft kitchen closed until then and ardbeg only open weekdays, where's a cyclist to go after the sunday run?

surely this merits government response?


Posted on brian at 09:22



breakdown

after only three years one of the directeur sportif's sti units failed, so now we need to replace the pair of them to start the new year.

would never have happened with a sturmey archer:-)


Posted on brian at 08:50



planning variation

well it seems that the new pier at bruichladdich isn't as objectionable as it was made out to be. construction is almost complete, and if you drove past today, you'd wonder what all the fuss had been about.

however, it appears that the council may have acquired planning consent for one thing, then built something else instead. only the something else is nicer.


Posted on brian at 09:01



bit late i'm afraid

bit late in the week, i'm afraid for this, but those of us who cycle regularly on islay would like to send our condolences to rhyl cc and tha familes of those killed after the appalling accident in wales on sunday.

very good piece on aftermath of such in yesterday's (wednesday) guardian by matt seaton. www.guardian.co.uk


Posted on brian at 09:04



oops!

i think i had said i would remind jazz fans that the sheena swanson quartet would be featured on 'from be-bop to hip-hop' on wednesday evening (11 january), but i forgot.

however, the programme, featuring sheena for a whole hour during the second half, is repeated on sunday evening on radio scotland, or you can listen at a time that suits here.

cd available soon:-)


Posted on brian at 09:01



addition to the oops

having listened to the first part of 'from be-bop to hip-hop' john cavanagh stated that they had come over to the islay jazz festival to record the big names appearing and had hoped to include one contribution from the local artist (sheena)

however, on returning to the studio, they realised just how good she was and decided that more was very much in order. so sheena got an hour of bbc radio time.

and she deserves every minute.


Posted on brian at 13:46



luck, for once

had an excellent cycle round loch gorm on saturday due to the weather vigilance of the ds, who noted that sunday's weather was likely to be crap.

and he was right - no cycling on sunday.

saturday, however, was clear bue skies, bit draughty, but character buliding in every sense of the phrase.


Posted on brian at 08:50



whisky round the islands

those intrepid people at whisky magazine are embarking on a somewhat gruelling tour round islay and jura's distilleries this march.

in one day, they will walk from craighouse to feolin and the ferry, cross to islay and make their way to caol ila. they will then walk the five or so miles to bunnahabhain, collect some bicycles (see, you knew we'd get to the good bit), and cycle to kilchoman distillery, some 25 miles away.

leaving from bruichladdich the next day, they will row across the loch to bowmore distillery, then walk from there to ardbeg, passing laphroaig and lagavulin on the way. this latter distance is around fourteen miles.

they're hoping to attract some compatriots from each of the distilleries for at least part of the trip, and i shall almost cetainly join them for the cycle part of the trip.

all this is to raise money for 'make poverty history'. they will also collect some 'samples' of local product to create a vatted islay which will be auctioned later in the year.
Posted on brian at 09:07



the future's digital

i taught a course on digital photography and photoshop at the argyll college, bowmore at the end of last year, i'm two weeks into teaching the same ten week course this year, and have a waiting list to repeat this after easter.

earlier this week, nikon announced they were ceasing production of standard film cameras; agfa, one of the world's largest manufacturers of traditional film went out of business at the end of 2005, and just today, konica minolta (the third largest manufacturer of traditional film) announced they were transferring their digital camera business to sony, giving up traditional film cameras, and no longer manufacturing film.

the future - photographically speaking, at least - is surely digital


Posted on brian at 08:51



zeros and ones

seems the snowball is moving since mentioning the demise of film yesterday.
an infotrends study apparently shows that digital cameras will dominate the professional photography market by 2010 with 90% of professional pictures taken digitally.

so if you're still entrenched in the 'analogue' era, now would be a good time to start hoarding stocks of film.

btw, a couple of responses to yesterday's post highlighted the possibility of running a blogged course on digital imaging. if anyone else on the islands is interested in this, post a reply and i will take a serious look at how practical this could be.


Posted on brian at 09:35



islay pixel mangling

after exchange of e-mails with mike at the bbc, we've decided that this photoshop by island blogging might just work. since it's not the way i would normally be asked to do this sort of thing, it might be a bit unwieldy via mangled pixels to begin with, but if some of you are willing to give it a try, i'm game.

difficulty here is that i don't know at what stage everybody's at so i'll start with the deadly basics (mainly because i haven't had time to prepare any screenshots).

most recent digital cameras save the pics on some sort of memory card as jpegs (which, if you're interested, stands for joint photographic experts group - it's simply a standards organisation) and some of the higher-end cameras will save as raw files.

this latter seems like an attempt to woo the old skool photographers, since it is purely the information as recorded by the camera without any internal processing. raw files require specific software to prepare them for imaging on the computer - if your camera takes raw files, it will have arrived with the manufacturer's software on cd.

adobe photoshop elements comes in two flavours at the moment - version 4 for windows and version 3 for mac - and as far as i know (though i'm guessing since i don't have the latter and, as a mac user, i can't load the former) both can process raw files. if anyone knows different, let me know.

if your camera will support raw images, that's probably the way to go, though raw files take up a lot more memory than jpegs, which, by their very definition, are compressed files. as an example, i have use of a fuji s5000 6 megapixel camera which will store 86 jpegs in the same space it takes to store 18 raw files. raw files also slow the camera's storage processor, so you might find it difficult or impossible to use the rapid fire photography feature.

principal difference between the two types: jpegs are processed and compressed in the camera which sets the white point balance, colour balance, colour space resolution, sharpness, contrast etc. raw files don't do any of those things (which is why they are called raw) and offer the photographer a hitherto unheard of degree of control over all of the above, before you start 'tidying' them up in the software of your choice.

naturally, the choice is further muddied as to type of camera. so called 'consumer' cameras are effectively the digital version of the old instamatic - point and shoot. you view the subject either through a viewfinder or a display panel on the back. further up the scale are the digital slr (single lens reflex) cameras which allow you to see exactly the same as the camera lens by means of a prism or mirror system. lenses on an slr are interchangeable lending a greater degree of flexibility (and expense) over the point and shoot variety.

since i use adobe photoshop for more hours than i'd like to admit, and it is generally regarded as the industry standard, all the screenshots that will eventually appear in this blog (hopefully) will be from this programme. however, i'll concentrate on the imaging basics which will be as software nuetral as i can possibly manage, bearing in mind, aside from the recently released adobe lightroom (public beta) it's the only imaging software i've got.

if there's any specifics anyone needs to know, post a comment and i'll try my best to move the blog in that direction.

more soon...
Posted on brian at 19:20



lesson one

now this is where we find out whether i've found the right method to run photoshop training on the blog. the screenshots are all done in adobe photoshop elements 2 on a macintosh - not really because i want to specifically promote adobe products, but because i use photoshop (along with half the world) to do all my digital imaging. and everything i do is on macs because i really, really don't like windoze.

anyway, first lesson (sounds so formal) is possibly a bit cheesy, but it works and it does start with the first tool on the tools palette in photoshop. start by clicking and hold on the marquee selection tool at the top left of the tools palette. this will display the marquee tool flyout panel. navigate down to the elliptical marquee selection tool and release the mouse button. the top of your tools palette should now look like the picture shown.

palette selection


next we need a photograph on which to practice our art, so i have a photo of the paps of jura, kindly supplied by mark unsworth of islay studios.

paps of jura


before we go any further, look at the top of the screen to find a little box entitled 'feather', (see image below) which should be showing 0px, and which we're going to change to 8px - this figure depends on the actual size of your image but we can always go back and change later.

feathering


next, we click and hold in the top left of the image and drag down towards bottom left to create an elliptical selection as shown above. the dotted line should appear to be moving in a clockwise direction and are cheerfully known as 'marching ants'

next step is to access the edit menu and click copy. note that the letters to the right of each menu item refer to the keyboard commands for that item. in this case 'command-c' (control-c on a pc) will copy a selection.



then we're going to access the file menu and create a new file. (command/control-n)

new file box


having created a new file (which will appear as a white image file in photoshop), we now access the edit menu again and choose paste. (command/control-v)

paste


the final image should be similar to that shown below. what we have done by selecting an 8px feather before creating a selection was to start a fade from the edge of the selection that moves in 8px before it stops fading, thereby giving the now elliptical image a soft edge (very old skool).

finished image


if the feathering is not to your liking, start over by deleting the new file you have just created, and deselect the 'marching ants' by pressing command/control-d, then either increase or decrease the feathering before creating a new selection. in fact, do that anyway, try some bizarre feathering and see what the results are. you can also try the same thing with the rectangular marquee.

if you want a perfect circle or square, press the shift key while dragging the selection.

have fun.


Posted on brian at 16:32



lesson one - the extra bit

as an addition to 'lesson one' posted earlier, i have made a short quicktime movie of the process described in text and pictures. you can download it here

it weighs in at 4.4mb which might take a bit of time over a dial-up connection

i can also make it available as an itunes movie if you want, but the quality suffers a bit.

let me know


Posted on brian at 09:04



analogue benefit

seems there's a benefit, however brief, to the news that konica minolta and nikon will no longer manufacture traditional film cameras.

a retailer in japan has reported ten times the normal order level for traditional slr cameras from prospective owners wishing to buy the last of the technology before it disappears for good.

so anyone who wishes to remain analogue and ignore digital for as long as possible, now would be a good time to phone jessops:-)


Posted on brian at 08:50



more than just dexterity

anyone know how to take a photo while cycling quickly?


Posted on brian at 21:45



and now lesson two

i will attempt to add a quicktime movie of the following when time allows, but meanwhile here's the picture postcard lesson in photoshop. this time it's a particularly helpful lesson and one i use regularly in my day to day travails in photoshop.

you'll often find that your digital photos look a bit dull and lifeless, either because of the lighting on the day or because of under exposure. our example below was taken at the classic malts cruise in lagavulin bay (not literally - i was in islayseasafari's rigid inflatable at the time:-)

starting point


in order to see what the problem is, select the enhance menu > adjust brightness and contrast > levels. it's a good idea to always ignore the brightness and contrast menu item because it's a bit of a bruiser when it comes to image adjustment.

menu choice


selecting this menu item will display the dialogue box shown below. unsurprisingly, the black slider (highlighted) denotes the shadows in the image, the grey slider (middle) denotes the midtones, and the white slider (right, highlighted) denotes the highlights. in this case there appears to be a distinct lack of highlights and rather a low level of shadows. notice that all the tones seem to be lumped either side of the mid-point.



all we're going to do is drag the black slider in toward the centre until it is under the start of the black 'hill' (technically referred to as a histogram) and likewise the white slider in the opposite direction to bring it under the other side of the hill. i've highlighted both sliders in red so that you can compare the levels at start and finish.



finally, we can take a look at the enhanced image. much better. it's possible to work on each colour channel and to adjust the grey mid-point slider depending on your image. this is certainly where it ceases to be a technical exercise and becomes value judgement.



have fun
Posted on brian at 18:33



lesson two at the movies

have created a quicktime movie of lesson two which you can download here

mac users can probably wath the movie in their web browsers, but option click the link to download to your hard disk. windoze users should right click the link and select 'save to disk'

should point out that it weighs in at just under 5mb so it could take a while if you're on a dial-up connection
Posted on brian at 09:01





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