Some Pictures

Well, this is a photography site! A small selection of pictures I’ve taken recently – some in their original form, some processed. I’ll explain what I’ve done and why…

The ceremony  by Peter Scargill

The photograph above was taken in Galera (Spain) this summer in one of the many evening events – some religious, some just an excuse to party. This was taken with a mobile phone and despite my best efforts you see here an issue that affects all cameras to one extent or another – dynamic range. The phone camera is just not able to capture the massive range of brilliance from the bright incandescent lighting through to the shadows in the streets behind.

Something has to suffer and in this case the compromise resulted in total whitening out of the lamps. Not a problem, people who’ve seen the shot like it – but this is just one of the many limitations of photography. It is likely that the camera itself caught most of the information, however the compression system used in mobile phones and many normal cameras, called JPEG compression, simply is not up to providing the range to make this shot perfect.

The Sky by Peter Scargill

The photo above was taken late afternoon in Spain – and there was again a wide range from bright to dark. This time however I used what is called HDR photography. There are many ways to do this – in this example two identical photos were taken by the camera – one best suited to get the detail in the sky, the other to capture the detail in the shadows. The photographs were then processed to alighn the two shots and produce an image that captures the full dynamic range. Of course, it is a compromise – you can’t possibly show the complete dynamic range or you’d need an awfully bright computer screen – so what happens is that the range of lightest to darkest in the image is effectively “compressed” – this results in a pleasing image but the critical photographer would note that the sky is not 100% accurate.

There is a very slight “glow” between the trees and the sky – this is an inevitable result of dynamic range compression and some packages handle it better than others.

Personally I find this compromise acceptable. HDR photography, where multiple images are combined together, is well suited to static photos like this – it does not work at all well where people or objects are moving! Some day when the cameras are fast enough to take the shots perhaps 10,000th of a second apart or less, that will change. Alternatively, sensors with a much wider dynamic range and the use of RAW storage format may achieve the same thing. Right now, RAW images are massive.

The Cave

The image on the left is one of my favourite “art” pictures. A picture is taken on a mobile phone and an App used to process it. The software (which resides on a powerful server, not the phone itself) processes the image and “interprets” what it sees to produce something akin to art (or a mess depending on the software and the original image).

What I like about this is the ability to turn an otherwise normal or even disappointing image into something sharp, colourful and generally nice to look at) – isn’t that the point?) In this case the App used is called Prisma. The package is flawed at the time of writing – it annoyingly only uses a square crop from the original image (many people have complained about this) and it does not scale the image well… however, it can perform miracles on photographs. I have written to the author as have others to get some changes made.

Look at the image on the left, it has a cartoon feel to it – with lines delimiting objects. Ask yourself the question “how the hell does the software know where objects start and end in order to draw those lines?”

Well, it does and in most cases does a magical job. The image on the left above shows part of the cave that my wife and I own in Spain – and the main building you see on the right is my office.  Below is another image similarly processed – of my cat Cloe.

Cloe by Peter Scargill

Despite dropping the original photograph (which I hate to admit was slightly out of focus – or maybe that’s a good thing) to the minimum level of detail – let me assure you that this “art” absolutely captures our somewhat annoyed but at the same time beautiful ragdoll cat.

More of this in a future post.

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