Wednesday, 30 January 2013

iPad Photo Processing With PicsPlay Pro

Yesterday the iPad app "PicsPlay Pro" was reduced to 69p for a short while so I grabbed a copy. At the time of writing it is still at this reduced price. So far among the many iPad photo apps I have tried out this is far above the others in quality, reliability, ease of use and versatility. On starting you can take a new photo or load one already in the iPad. Once loaded there are choices of cropping, effects, general exposure control, adding text, borders, vignetting, colour splash and many others. Choosing the effects section brings up this screen:


Choosing an effect from the left brings up many thumbnails of different ways to apply that effect. This is instant and the thumbnails can be scrolled through and tried at full screen size. No problem if you change your mind as the app has many levels of undo.

I have chosen Art - Sketch. With most, probably all, effects there is a slider which lets you choose any state between the original photo and the full effect. Here I have adjusted the effect to allow some of the original colour to mix with the b/w sketch:


You are not limited to using one effect, many can be used one after the other to build up the result which pleases you. At any and every stage the result can be applied and saved to the iPad Camera Roll, sent to other apps which have the facility to import a photo, emailed, sent to Twitter, Facebook or Flickr. If you use Dropbox then that comes up as one of the 'other apps'.

This started off as a b/w Moon in a black sky:


There are far too many different effects in PicsPlay Pro to cover here such as the HDR type effects and the way some can be applied to part of a photo. For me this app was well worth 69p of my pension and would still be a great aquisition at its previous £1.49 It looks as though it could be going up to £2.49 soon.

When I want to get photos in or out of the iPad I use a PC program called iFunBox which allows access to all parts of the iPad much more easily than battling with iTunes.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Guess What

A photo I took in the snow a few days ago.
Can you guess what made this impression?

2013-01-24 15.08.15c.jpg

No prizes, just for fun.
Answer next Monday.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch - Results

Nothing out of the ordinary while I did my hour stint on Saturday morning counting the maximum number of each type of bird which visited my garden.

Some of the regulars were missing from the count as they didn't arrive during that hour.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Satellite picture of snowy UK

A fascinating and spectacular photo showing the snow cover over the UK today.
It is a large file / picture and can be found on the NASA site. I guess the cloud over Ireland and the Atlantic is the heavy rain heading our way tonight. For those on slow connections a smaller picture can be found on this NASA page.

My thanks to Storm Chase UK who put the link on Twitter.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch UK

Just a gentle reminder that the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch takes place this weekend - 26th-27th January 2013. It just takes one hour of your time to count the maximum number of each type of bird which visits your garden during whichever hour you choose. Full details can be found on the RSPB site.

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The People vs Winter

One of my daily stopping points on the net is 'The Poke' website which is where I saw this video this morning:  My favourite parts are; reporter v snow plough, the amorous bull and the music soundtrack:

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Winter Wonderland - Humph!

Days and days of snow are probably great for children, nice to look at through a window and interesting for the occasional photograph but it gets a bit wearing walking three times a day on compacted snow and ice. A good job that I finally got Round Tuit at last and bought a snow shovel before this weather started. I hadn't realised how much easier it would make keeping my paths clear. At one stage our four inches of snow had started to melt but a night with a further two inches soon made up for that.

It looks as though this cold spell will begin to lift around the end of the week, as long as the forecasters aren't telling porkies.

A view or three from this morning:



How much longer do I have to stand here freezing my paws?


Friday, 18 January 2013

Friday at the Flicks - Apple Lovers - Fieldfare

Confession time - I am now pretty sure that what I saw on the bird table a few days ago was not a Fieldfare but a female Blackbird like this one enjoying apple when the Starlings stopped barging in:

But - to make up for things - a lovely surprise this morning. A genuine Fieldfare spent hours under the Birdy Bistro defending and eating the apple it had found. It was alone so I guess it had been blow a bit off course as they usually arrive in flocks.

Fieldfare in the Garden     Fieldfare in the Garden

This one was obviously very hungry and vigorously chased off any Blackbird which got too close. Shirl (Shirl's Gardenwatch) wondered whether I would manage to capture any video - here it is, taken this morning:

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Well Wrapped Up

It did manage to get above 0C, just, so Penny had her padded coat on when we went down the lane just before lunch:



As usual this time of year my lane is like a bumpy skating rink. Any snow is compressed by traffic and any melt can't run away so freezes again as soon as the temperature drops. I have been getting my moneys worth of use from my shoe spikes. Without them I would soon be going base over apex but with them I can safely have a brisk walk though Penny does tend to slide about a bit.

Amongst others there are about a dozen squabbling Blackbirds spending most of the day in the garden. The speed bird food is disappearing I think they all have hollow legs. The bird bath if frozen solid and covered in snow. Fortunately the pond pump is still working so the waterfall is their chosen spot for drinking and bathing.

A Bit on the Cold Side Today

Outdoor temperatures so far this week:

Temp Jan13.jpg

Forecasts indicate that temperatures will struggle to get up to 0C during the daytime until late Sunday. It was about -6C when we went for our early morning walk-about. Fortunately there was no wind or it would have felt much colder. The birds are getting through seed like it is going out of fashion. A good job a new supply was delivered yesterday.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

My Own Dining Table by Penny

For six months I have chased my food dish round the kitchen. Every time I tried to get at the tasty bits the dish would slide around. At last dad got round to solving the problem. He bought me my own dining table.


It is a nice height so I don't have to bend down so much. It has two stainless steel dishes and they don't try to run away from me. Now eating and drinking are so easy I can enjoy my food even more.


The only problem is, I enjoyed my food so much I even ate the bit I usually save for supper and I am too full to do anything except sleep it off:


I wonder how many of my cuddly toys you can spot.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Snowy Night - Nikon v Lumix

Experiment - Nikon S9050 on a tripod shooting through the kitchen window. Had to take a lot of shots as the scene was so dark. In fact the LCD screen was virtually blank even with the outside lighting switched on. Exposure was about one second. These were about the best of the bunch. Orange sky is the falling snow reflecting the sodium street lights. Also there is an interior reflection from the window.


All photos tweaked with the ReDynaMix plug-in in Photoshop Elements.

Yellow foreground is from a low energy lamp outside.

Finally I tried the Lumix TZ7. This time I was able to see a dim view of the scene on the LCD screen. The Lumix took 8 seconds to take the photo plus another 3 or 4 seconds processing before it was saved.


Interestingly both cameras claimed they were properly focussed by giving a green indication on their screens and by beeping. Both cameras were set to their fully automatic settings with flash forced off.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Cloudy Sky

Today was the first time since I bought the Nikon S9050 that there have been cloud formations worth looking at. Overhead there was a virtually clear blue sky but in most directions there were dark brooding clouds building - looks as though things are getting ready for the snow forecast in a day or twos time.

Most photos have been cropped and all were processed with the ReDynaMix plug-in to increase contrast:

Full colour:

With the green 'popped' effect done in the camera:

Oooo look, clouds:

High contrast monochrome done in the camera:

I also used the 'Wire Worm' plug-in on these to get rid of a very prominent telephone cable:


It really made a change from the occasional day with no cloud and the many with full dreary, grey cloud cover.

Friday, 11 January 2013

MobileMonet HD

When it was available for free I downloaded and had a play with the iPad app MobileMonet HD

The original photo as taken by the Nikon S9050:


As processed by the app to produce a picture in the style of Claude Monet:


Thursday, 10 January 2013

Fieldfare? on the Bird Table

Unfortunately only a couple of really grotty shots .....



..... but I am pretty sure it was a Fieldfare which visited the bird table this morning.

That will teach me to keep the UV filter clean. Also the 50D always seems to have problems when the battery is low and the indicator was flashing at me this morning.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

What is the Magpie Watching?

A Magpie sat in a tree just past the end of my garden intently watching something going on in my garden:


It had spotted a Sparrowhawk which had managed to catch its lunch:


That was followed by something I really wish I had been quick enough to capture on camera. The Magpie came down and slowly walked across in front of the Sparrowhawk. They were only a few inches away from each other. The Magpie went away having satisfied its curiosity and the Sparrowhawk carried on with its meal though with many glances upwards to check there were no more Magpies about.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Monday Matinee

Didn't have anything ready for "Friday at the Flicks" so here they are for a Monday Matinee instead. First a short clip of Mrs Great Tit who, as far as I can tell, has been roosting in the camera nest box every night.

A little bit of video I took with the Nikon during yesterday's walkabout. Once again it was a route we had only taken once before, about six months ago.

Finally I couldn't have a video session without Starlings. I bought a tub of filled coconut halves when they were on sale from Petplanet UK. I have used the company for quite a few items for Penny. They often have reduced price offers for cat and dog food, toys and bedding as well as some items for wildlife and fish. They are worth keeping an eye on.

I hung one of the coconuts on a branch, positioned so that several types of birds could reach it. As well as the Blue Tits I have seen Blackbirds and, of course, Starlings enjoying it. One disadvantage for the birds which cannot hang on is the way it twirls round when they peck at it. At least that slows down the speed with which a Starling could demolish it:

Have a great week observing the wildlife around you.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

A Walk Round the Back of the Church

Another day of glorious Sunshine yesterday so I decided we would take a different route for our mid-day walk. I don't use the route round the back of the village church much at this time of year. A lot of the footpath is below field level and soon gets waterlogged, muddy and very slippery. Fortunately it wasn't too bad. The idea was to take another batch of monochrome photos but this time many of the results were disappointing. Walking in shade with bright light showing through leafless trees was too much contrast for the Nikon. Also shutter speeds in the gloom were really too slow for sharp results. Fortunately I also took a few colour snaps.

Looking back to the start of the footpath:

Penny looking forward to see where we were going. It was only the second time she had walked this way so everything was new, strange and very interesting:

Looking back across the end of the churchyard ....

.... and forward to the next part of the footpath:

Once we had reached the next lane we had a look to see if there were any horses in the meadow - yes, three. It may be sunny but they still need their winter coats on:


I am sure the one on the right is Angel. She was the mother of the foal, Fred, we watched a couple of years ago.  Photos and video of Fred can be seen HERE.

Looking back down the lane:

Finally we reached the main street and the lych gates at the entrance to the church:

With all the stops for me to take photos and for Penny to investigate it took nearly three quarters of an hour to cover a twenty minute walk but we were both enjoying the Winter Sun while it lasted.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Views From a Sunset Walk

Yesterday it looked like there was going to be a colourful Sunset so I used the dawn/dusk setting on the Nikon S9050. This emphasises the oranges and reds which can often be washed out or lost on a general colour setting. They are cropped and tweaked just a little.






The final one is my particular favourite.

Friday, 4 January 2013

The Camera Never Lies

So the saying goes. When I think about it the camera can only record what it sees though many modern cameras have various tricks built in to modify the result. Also there are some useful programs (on the PC as that is what I use) to improve or maybe I should say enhance the final result. Take this morning's effort as an example. I had taken a few shots to try out the Nikon S9050's assisted panorama shooting. As usual there was brilliant Sunshine before our walk and brilliant Sunshine afterwards but typically dull and overcast skies while I was taking the shots. More about panorama shots another day.

This is the first shot as taken with the Nikon - a straight forward colour shot:


As can be seen - thoroughly dull and uninspiring. Yesterday I had discovered a free program - VirtualPhotographer - which can run stand alone and as a Photoshop plug-in. (Should work in any program which can handle Photoshop plug-ins). Many of the things this program can do are available in Photoshop Elements but this way can be quicker. Unlike many plug-ins which give a small view of what they are doing VirtualPhotographer can be expanded to near full screen. One thing I do like is its ability to show a split view with the right hand half showing the original and the left hand showing the modifications in real time. This is it showing Polarize Grad with a pale blue chosen to give some colour to the sky:


The result:


Now I wanted to see what might be hidden in the sky and the shadows. For this I used the ReDynaMix plug-in as it can find subtle changes in contrast and enhance them. Somehow it picks out details you hardly noticed were there.

The final photo being:


The camera may not lie but I can't guarantee the same for this photographer.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

More Monochrome

Again taken with the Nikon S9050 using the High Contrast Monochrome setting.

One side of the village cricket field is bordered with a line of Poplars.

As taken by the Nikon S9050 - cropped

The same crop processed with ReDynaMix in Photoshop Elements

 The cricket clubhouse in Winter

As taken by the Nikon S9050

As above processed using ReDynaMix in Photoshop Elements

Some tree bark patterns (unprocessed):




All were taken hand held with one hand. The other keeping a tight hold on Penny's lead. Unfortunately with her four years training for greyhound racing her chasing instinct would kick in if she spotted any small furry prey. Considering the grey, dull lighting conditions they came out much sharper than I expected - a tribute to the camera's image stabilizing abilities.

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