Wednesday, 23 January 2013

A goose, traffic and opportunities

Transport [18 of 52] by CJ Isherwood
Transport [18 of 52], a photo by CJ Isherwood on Flickr.
I'm taking a rather philosophical approach to this post, and hope that I come across how I intend to.
This week, my photography theme has been 'Transport' - to be honest, a pretty dull subject at face value. Cars, trains, buses, planes? all just part of every day life, things we take for granted, things that aren't out of the ordinary or exciting.

I had a few plans, but nothing stood out, so I decided to play it by ear.

Change subject now, and back toward the beginning of the month (and year) I was thinking a lot about resolutions. I was going to do a post solely based on New Years resolutions, as it seems to be the fad that sweeps the nation within the first week of the year. I gave them a lot of thought, but nothing really came up that was worth writing about. However, in the past few days, I have decided what one of my 'resolutions' is going to be. Carry my camera with me as often as I can.

This became evident over the past 48 hours. Today is Wednesday, and back on Monday during my preparation for work - I ALMOST picked up my camera to take with me, as the roads are snowy, the fields are white and everything is looking rather picturesque. Of course, I didn't take it. On that mornings commute to work, I passed many views that I'd love to get a photo off, my whole commute was during the sunrise and the light was bouncing all over the place. Then, I was driving along next to a field, and I saw something sticking out of the snow. I get closer, and realise it's a goose. One lonely goose, sat among the snow, in the middle of a white field. I have no idea why it was there, I have no idea what it was doing, resting? To add to the scene, the field behind the goose rose and then dipped, causing the 'horizon' to be a perfect white line where the snow met the sky. I wanted to stop and get a photo, but thought there would be no point, even with my phone - the quality wouldn't be good enough and I'd be disappointed. If only I'd had my camera with me...

So yesterday, Tuesday, I have a day at university. I put my camera in my bag, and go on my way. I took a dozen or so shots before I'd even made it there that fit the weeks theme (one of which is shown above). The photo I ended up posting, I could only have got if I had my camera, so really, I made that photo happen by giving it the opportunity to happen.

It gave me some perspective of things, and made me realise, that good 'luck', or the interesting things in life, only happen if you give them the opportunity. Almost as if you have to meet them half way, put that effort in and you'll be rewarded. I guess this applies to many things, the more you put in, the more you get out.

So since then, my resolution has changed, from taking my camera everywhere I go, to make these opportunities happen as much as I can, say yes more and try and 'do' instead of 'do not'.


Wednesday, 5 December 2012

How to photograph and stack star trails (indoors)

3 hrs 45 mins by CJ Isherwood
Meteor on the right
Star trails have been something I've wanted to photograph since I first became aware of them around a year ago. The patience of spending all night in the garden with your camera in the freezing cold put me off slightly, but lately due to a clear window and some clear skies, I've managed to get the same results indoors.

This guide will briefly (and as simply as I can) explain the process I took to get these results by stacking multiple images together to create one final long-exposure image.

The first step is to set the camera up. For these images I use continuous shoot mode, with 30 second exposure and a low ISO (around 400) to keep the grain down. I'll set the aperture once the camera is pointing at the sky as it depends on how dark/light the sky is.

I've been taking my latest star trail shots through a back window in a spare room. By positioning the tripod against the wall, I can get the camera as close to the window as possible (try make sure the window is clean too!). Adding a bit of support to the tripod legs to stop any movement or slippage during the night. 

Once my shutter speed, shooting mode ISO are set, and I'm happy with the aperture, I use a wired external remote with locking switch to begin shooting. Continuous shoot mode will continually take shots while the remote button is pressed.

I'll then, usually, go to bed. You will usually find the camera silent in the morning, having drained all battery life. I've been told that when the sensor is activated is when the camera uses the most power, so continuous shots drain it pretty quick - however you should still get 5 - 7 hours of shooting out of a full charge (on my Canon 1000D anyway).

I'll then review the photos on screen, checking every 15 - 30 shots for clouds. Some trails I have had to cut short as clouds tend to come along after a few hours, in this case, I'll discard these from the final edit.

To stack the good images I use a program on the Macbook called Starstax (will add a link). This program, simply put, takes all the photos you select and stacks them together. Very simple to use indeed so no real need to explain further in this.

The stacking will show you each image as it stacks it, 2 or 3 per second, which is interesting to watch as you can see your photo gradually building up - star trails gradually getting longer. Occasionally you may see a plane fly past, or if you're lucky a meteor suddenly appear. By watching the stacking process you can also identify any shots that need touching up, for example last night I had to edit 4 or 5 photos after noticing a neighbour used a spotlight, thus filling the shot with an over-exposed foreground and bit of lens flare. A quick touch up in Photoshop on these images quickly solves this. If you chose not to touch these up, and simply delete these images, you will have gaps in your trails.

Once the stacking is complete, you can save the final image onto your computer.

Winter Star trails
2 hours 38 minutes

I tend to open the final image in Photoshop to see if it needs any touching up or colours fixed. I generally make the sky a little darker black/blue as so much exposure can make it pretty light/purple. I may also touch up the light pollution at the bottom of the shot.

I'm now pretty confident with this process, but am continuing to play around with different angles and parts of the sky. I'm also trying to hunt down some meteors of course ;-)

Friday, 24 August 2012

Summer's here

Taking in the Sun by CJ Isherwood
Taking in the Sun, a photo by CJ Isherwood on Flickr.

So summer turned up, and judging by the weather out the window it's gone away again.

Having spent a few weeks looking after Cheryl's sisters cats, we've returned home and decided to think about decorating. No plans have been made yet other than the plan to make plans. We now have an almost clear spare room which we can do as we please with, so will start once we find the time and colour.

The weather has been nice, we went to Legoland last week for the day. It was good, a 6 hour ambush of children running around and the constant feeling of being under a spotlight from the rather intense heat. The weather said it would be cloudy, such lies.

Since then the house has been too hot to sleep in, everyone complains about how the summer in England is rubbish, then we complain it's too hot when it finally turns up!

In other news, I've finished the second book of Game of Thrones, which is still a brilliant read. I'm now reading something a little lighter to have a rest from all the medieval shenanigans before I start on the third.

I've become a little dry on the photography front lately, mainly due to doing other things. I do however have a 52 photos project coming up, which I'm sure the next blog post will give more details about. (In short, 52 photos, one per week on a given subject).

Tuesday, 26 June 2012


Weymouth Seafront by CJ Isherwood

Weymouth Seafront, a photo by CJ Isherwood on Flickr.
So it's been a long time since I've updated here, I keep doing things and wanting to write about them but never get round to them, seems to be a trend lately.

Beginning of June we went down to (almost) sunny Weymouth for a weekend away, met up with Chris from flickr - top bloke.

Was good catching up, seeing the sights, the places I've seen on his stream etc. We also went to the sea life centre on the last day, followed by some pirate crazy golf, which was indeed piratey and crazy. I won, but Cheryl not scoring a hole may have seen otherwise.

Since we've got back, we've been maintaining a fish tank, slowly adding more fish. They seem pretty happy but the water isn't ideal just yet. Hoping to sort that before we buy the final batch.

Listening to a lot of Bob Dylan, Tribe called Quest, and still learning a few bits and pieces on guitar. Starting to get the hang of a little song on piano currently too.

This is starting to feel like an essay, which I have finished 4 of in the last month, so I'm going to stop now.