Stone Wall Texture

My photo of a stone wall on the Western Isles of Scotland has just become the third of my photos to reach the milestone of 1,000 views on Flickr.

This is even more of a surprise than my graffiti photo (which has now accelerated past the 1,600 views mark), as I just can’t imagine who is looking at this photo or why it is so popular. From the information provided by Flickr’s stats, it seems that its catching the eye of folks searching for stone walls on Yahoo Images …

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Photo Chosen For Freedom 2008

Posted by Stuart Herbert on October 27th, 2008 in Caerphilly, Modern, News, Photos.

Dawn on Caerphilly Mountain

This view from atop Caerphilly Mountain will be on display as part of the slideshow of the Freedom 2008 exhibition. Organised through Flickr, Freedom 2008 is part of Photomonth – the East London Photography Festival running at the Dray Walk Gallery, Old Truman Brewery during 29th October 9th November 2008.

There’s a discussion thread on Flickr where everyone selected for this exhibition is currently posting their shots. If, like me, you can’t actually make it to London to see the exhibition for yourself, check out the thread. Congrats to everyone who had a photo selected!

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Lane Control Beside The Canal

If you drive down the A470, over the Gabalfa fly-over and into Cardiff city centre, you’ll be familiar with one of the peculiarities of the roads in Cardiff. I’m not talking about the continuous experimentation with partially-closing St Mary’s Street; I’m referring to where four lanes of traffic goes down to just three as you reach Blackweir. On the right there’s the long, thin car park with the beauty of Bute Park beyond, and overhead the direction of traffic is controlled by these new digital signs. That car park has been built over the top of the old Glamorganshire Canal.

The new signs were installed either in 2007 or 2008 (I didn’t make a note of exactly when), and they replaced older mechanical signs that sat on top of the same gantry. (I have a similar shot of the old signs that I’ll dig out and post later). You’d have thought that they could have given the gantry a lick of fresh paint at the same time, wouldn’t you? 🙂

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Margam Country Park – Flickr Meet

Posted by Stuart Herbert on October 19th, 2008 in Photos, Shoot.

2008101113-16-55_Nikon

Last Saturday, Kristi and I headed down to Margam Country Park near Port Talbot to meet up with quite a few folks from the Welsh Flickr Cymru group on Flickr. We had a great time, took loads of photos, and even got to see a few deer 🙂

Thoughts On The Day

After a summer of wet and dull weekends, it was a real joy to be out and about once more with the camera. For what I think was the first time this year, instead of heading out with just the 18-135mm lens, I packed up the full kit – Sigma 10-20mm lens, Nikkor 18-135mm lens, Sigma 50mm macro lens, and the long-reaching Sigma 80-400mm uber-lens.

As always on a Saturday, we headed down to the Knapp first to play some Tai Chi, wolf down some lovely Segafredo coffee, and then pottered down the M4 to Margam Country Park. We all met up in the car park first, which was very handy, as neither Kristi nor I really know anyone from the Welsh Flickr Cymru group. We said hello to everyone, posed for the group photo, and then buggered off on our own for the day. I’d seen the old chapel up on the hill plenty of times driving past on the M4 and with the glorious weather was determined that this was the day I was finally going to make it up there 🙂

On the way to the chapel, we ran what I think was a volunteer group, who were working on rebuilding the old path up the hill. They’re currently making it safer than it was, and they hope to have it finished in about six months or so. Until they’ve finished, to get to the chapel its a short walk up the road and then take the first left by the footpath sign. The footpath is a little muddy, but it wasn’t overgrown at the time.

It’s well worth the trek up the hill just for the view:

Margam House

We headed back down to enjoy lunch outside the house, watching the deer running through the trees behind. Sandwiches downed, we set on in search of deer! I shot a good 30-40 shots of two deer under the trees. Another photographer (not part of the meet I believe) wandered by partway through, and made the comment that surely we’d both taken enough shots of the deer by then. I’m glad we ignored him, because out of those 40 shots, I only ended up with 4 that I was happy with. Even with the 400mm lens, it was difficult to get close shots of the deer eating under the trees. Might be time to trade up to a 500mm lens next 🙂

Further along, the path climbs up to the top of another hill overlooking the country park. The top of the hill features a lovely little copse of trees, and a very strange brick-lined pit. Kristi reckons it must have been a swimming pool, but if you can shed any light on it, please leave a comment below!

My favourite memory of the whole day has to be the gum tree near the Orangery. As you approach it, all you can hear is the humming of all the bees drinking nectar from the tree. There’s a lovely bench underneath where you can sit, relax, and just enjoy the sheer sense of life all around you.

The Photos

[flickr album=72157607941543379 num=30]

Post Production

Since March this year, I’ve been working on improving my HDR post-production technique, trying to find the right settings in both Photomatix Pro 2 and Aperture 2 to tone down the unrealistic colours to match the ‘faded’ look I’ve been developing since my Taff Vale Eastern Ridge Walk set last year. Although it adds a lot of time to the post-production work, the results are photos that hopefully are starting to take on a distinctive style not just in composition but also in colour and appearance.

Found On Flickr

Don’t forget to check out all of the other excellent photos taken by members of Welsh Flickr Cymru during this meet.

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Nokia N82 – 5 MP Camera Phone

Posted by Stuart Herbert on October 10th, 2008 in Equipment, Photos.

When magazines print their Top 10 Photography Tips, you can normally guarantee that the #1 photography tip is to always carry a camera with you. Modern digital compact cameras have made that very easy to do, but for many people the idea of carrying around an additional gadget doesn’t fit with their lifestyle.

Enter the camera phone.

The whole appeal of a camera phone is that you’re always going to have it with you, because you always have your mobile phone with you. They are also extremely discrete (well, the phones are; the folks using them often are anything but!) which means you’re not going to attract the sort of attention you might get taking carrying around a decent Nikon SLR. Handy if you enjoy taking photos in the heart of London’s Docklands and other places where the police come with their very own complimentary H&K MP-5 sub-machine gun.

Back in March, I bought myself a silver Nokia N82 to become my main phone. Since then, I’ve been snapping away with it, and thought I’d share the results.

The Nokia N82 – 5 Megapixel Camera Phone

Nokia’s N82 comes with a 5 Megapixel sensor, and a Carl Zeiss lens supporting f/2.8 to f/5.6. Focal length is fixed, and quoted by Nokia as 5.6mm. Unfortunately they don’t provide any figures to compare that to 35mil focal lengths, but I’d estimate that it’s somewhere between the equivalent of 28mm to 50mm in 35mil terms.

It’s important to stress that the lens is fixed focus. All the zooming is digital, which should be avoided at all costs. Digital zooms result in lower-quality images (if you’re lucky), and on my Nokia N82 the auto-focusing simply doesn’t work if you try zooming in. Mind you, my particular handset has been back to Nokia more than once for repair, so you may find this actually works quite well for you if you buy your own handset.

This camera can also take macro photos. The quoted specs are that you can take macro photos at a distance of 10-50 cm. I found that quite useful, but not especially brilliant, and if macro photography is your thing you’re more than likely going to carry a real camera with a real macro lens anyway.

The lens is hidden behind a manual sliding cover to keep it clean, which does the job. just above the lens is a real flash (not a crappy LED flash like the N95 had to suffer), which I expect makes the N82 a great camera for taking photos of your drunk mates in the nightclub at the weekend (which, let’s face it, is really why phones have cameras at all).

Taking Photos With The Nokia N82

I got into digital photography early in 2003, when digital cameras were notorious for being slow to start up and to lag substantially when actually trying to take a photo. Thankfully, real cameras have long since banished this particular demon, so it’s really obvious how slow the N82 is when you whip it out of your pocket to capture a quick shot.

I have missed many shots because of how slow the camera mode is to start on the N82, how slow the autofocusing is, and the lag when clicking the shutter release button. If that’s your type of photography, then you’ll want to try the N82 out for yourself before taking the plunge.

The screen is bright and clear, although on sunny days I’ve found that the screen makes an excellent mirror, and it can be tricky to take shots if you can’t shade the screen with your free hand. But if your photography allows you the time for some patience, or you can avoid direct sunlight on the screen, you could probably live with it.

Nokia N82 Photo Quality

Speaking of direct sunlight … my own experience is that the N82 takes by far its best photos in well-lit conditions. It can be blue skies or grey, so long as the sky is bright and you don’t try zooming in, it will prove to be a camera you can trust.

In darker conditions, especially around dusk, I’ve had little success in taking quality photos with the N82. I’ve always suspected that camera phones are mainly designed for use in nightclubs anyway, so this isn’t a surprise and I found I quickly got used to the limitation.

One thing I like about the photos taken with the N82 are the colours. To my eye, I find them deep, rich, and most importantly pretty accurate. This adds a lot to the perception of quality in the final image, and it also adds to the enjoyment of taking photos with the N82, because I certainly feel that under the right conditions I can trust it to take a photo that I won’t need to edit later.

Sample Photos

Here are some shots that I think show what a useful camera the Nokia N82 can be, in the right conditions. None of these photos have been edited in any way. There’s certainly some shots in this set that I’d have been happy to have taken on a dedicated pocket camera, and I think that’s a good indication of how much image quality has improved on camera phones.

N82 Test Shot N82 Test Shot N82 Test Shot N82 Test Shot N82 Test Shot N82 Test Shot N82 Test Shot N82 Test Shot N82 Test Shot N82 Test Shot N82 Test Shot N82 Test Shot N82 Test Shot N82 Test Shot N82 Test Shot N82 Test Shot N82 Test Shot N82 Test Shot N82 Test Shot N82 Test Shot N82 Test Shot N82 Test Shot N82 Test Shot N82 Test Shot N82 Test Shot N82 Test Shot N82 Test Shot N82 Test Shot

Geotagging With The N82

If you look at the metadata on the sample shots, you’ll notice that there’s a distinct lack of geotagging information. The older firmware on the N82 didn’t support geotagging at all, and I’ve been unable to get it working on the new firmware since my N82 came back from Nokia. However, if you take a look on Flickr, you’ll see lots of folks haven’t had any trouble, so I’m putting this down to a problem with my particular N82.

Photo Uploading To Flickr

One of the neat features of the N82 is “Share Online”, which allows you to upload your photos to Flickr without needing a PC. It works over WiFi as well as the mobile phone network, which saves on data transfer costs. Unfortunately, since my N82 came back from Nokia, this feature no longer works. I get a completely ambiguous “System error 100” message. A quick Google shows that I’m not the only person who sees this problem, and that there doesn’t seem to be a good explanation of what causes it or how to resolve it 🙁

Conclusions

I’ve had the Nokia N82 for six months now, and I can see myself keeping it for another couple of years and continuing to use it as a camera phone throughout that time.

The ultimate test is whether or not I’d be willing to leave the dedicated pocket camera at home, and just go out and about with the Nokia N82. Day to day, travelling to and from work, I do indeed only have the Nokia N82 with me – but there’s no way I’d go out and about on a weekend or on holiday and hope to rely solely on the Nokia N82.

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