Let’s talk Photography. In fact, ask the Hairy Photographer anything about cameras, Photoshop, lighting, etc.

The Moon and Mars – but it’s a Flake!

Screenshot-2014-04-15-23.14There was so much being bandied around on Facebook tonight about the fabulous moon and the fact you could clearly see Mars just above it too, that I felt I really should get involved.

Now one thing that I am not, is an astrological photographer.  I have a friend who’s just built an observatory in his back garden, but he lives fifty miles away.  He’s got all the gear, right down to the super-duper (technical term) telescope on a plinth set in three feet of concrete, and an electronic tracking device to take the rotation of the earth into account.

It’s all good stuff.  And I’m certain he will come up with some superb shots.

So I’m thinking:  Half the people on Facebook who reckon they have seen Mars, probably didn’t so I decided to do a quick mock-up to show it clearly.
The-original-base-imageFirst I found a lovely Moonscape, author unknown, on a royalty free desktop wallpaper site.  The moon was right at the top edge of the frame so I extended the canvas in Photoshop to make room for “Mars”.  I did a quick selection of the sky and masked it off with a layer mask.  Then, having sampled the darkest and lightest areas of the original, I created a new sky on a blank layer beneath it using the gradient tool with a circular gradient to replicate the moon’s glow.

Using Google’s “Labelled for reuse” search, I found a starry sky which I added to the masked area and set the layer to “lighten”.  I did the same with the Comet Trail  and Milky way layers.  The Mars Bar shot had the white background removed and was distorted using Photoshop’s Transform tool to give it the perspective of an object flying toward you. Similarly, the Milky Way bar logo was cut out, but with a soft feathered edge, and dropped into place with reduced opacity.

the-reflection-compositeThe Moon was already reflected magnificently in the water but I would need to add the reflection of all the other elements.  First I made a selection of the water area using the Quick Select tool and saved it.  Then I created a copy of all the new sky elements by copying and merging the relevant layers.

Next I created a layer mask on this new sky layer by reloading the saved selection and clicking the mask icon.  By unlocking the mask from the layer proper, I was able to select and then vertically transform the sky layer and drag it down so that the sky appeared to be reflected in the water.

I then used the ripple filter to distort the reflection of the Mars Bar.  This still didn’t look right, so I found a royalty free image of light reflected on rippling water and overlayed this image  on the masked water area experimenting with the blending modes and opacity to get the right effect.

So there we have it.  A bit of fun in my warm man cave whilst everybody else was outside shivering and attempting to find Mars with their 200mm lenses.




By |April 16th, 2014|1 Comment

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Oh my Lorde – she’s been Photoshopped!

Photoshop has come a long way since its humble beginnings back in 1987, when University of Michigan  PhD student Thomas Knoll began dabbling with code to display pictures on computers.  As it evolved, he named his program Photoshop and it was snapped up by the Adobe corporation who released it to the world in 1990.

Screenshot-2014-04-01-18.46.07Since then it has blossomed into the most comprehensive image editing program in the world and is used by millions in the photographic, publishing and graphic arts related industries.

What I find sad is that today the name has become almost a derogatory term.  “Oh you can see that’s been Photoshopped!”  It seems to become a victim of its own success.  Or at least a victim of the over zealous and under experienced users of this truly magnificent program.

It is almost the same as the way rising stars use the paparazzi to boost and enhance their celebrity as they climb the ladder, then curse them for invading their privacy.  There was a time some of the “prima donna” models would insist on having their photos retouched before they were published, many are now insisting on the opposite.

One of the latest celebrities to speak out against the use of Photoshop is Grammy-winning pop singer Lorde.

In this tweet on the 31st of March (above) , she showed the difference between a retouched photo and a straight photo of her taken during the same show, posting both photos with the comment “remember flaws are ok :-)”

Personally, I am all for retouching – so long as it is not overdone.

If the subject matter is a real person and the photograph is intended to represent that person, then I’m all for portraying them in a good light.  Taking away blemishes, shadows under the eyes etc., is absolutely fine by me.  After all it is something that has been practised by professional portrait photographers ever since the very first portrait studios came into existence. They used traditional, methods of retouching and air-brushing.

Unfortunately, putting the power of Photoshop in the hands of the new generation of “retouchers” is a bit like giving the keys to a Ferrari to a 17 year old who just passed his test.  You just know there will be a crash!  Not satisfied with simply removing skin blemishes, they seem to want to take Photoshop through all the gears on every single journey. Legs become longer, waists trimmer and boobs bigger – to the extent it no longer truly represents the real person.

…And before anybody cites the fact that I have turned people into mermaids and ordinary people into “calendar girls” (and boys!) I’m talking here about regular photographs.  When it comes to fantasy pictures – well, anything goes!

What are your views on retouching?  Let me know in the comments section.

By |April 1st, 2014|0 Comments

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2014 Sony World Photography Award Winners

The winners have been announced in the 2014 Sony World Photography Awards. Here are a few of my own personal favourites…

Follow Chris Birchall’s board 2014 Sony World Photography Awards on Pinterest.

By |March 22nd, 2014|0 Comments

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Getty Images for FREE!

One of the advantages of the digital age has been the way high quality imagery has become more  abundant, more accessible and more instantaneous than ever before.

Yes there is a lot of rubbish floating around the internet, mainly camera phone snapshots.  But relatively cheap DSLRs have made it easier for anyone with an ounce of artistic ability to become a… “photographer”.

The downside has been felt by the genuine professional photographic fraternity.  Full time photographers from all walks of the profession, from wedding to war photographers, have seen their hitherto “exclusive” club being invaded by everybody from part-time wannabes to the snapper who just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Of course, the client who wants a job doing properly, to the highest standard and on time, will always engage a professional commercial photographer. No question.  It is the stock photographer who has suffered most by the proliferation of reasonably good quality imagery.  At one time, the only way to acquire a stock image to use in a brochure or on a web site was to go to a recognised stock agency and either licence the use of an image (for a mid to high budget campaign or for specialist editorial use) or purchase a royalty-free image  for non exclusive editorial purposes.

The explosion of the internet into pretty much every corners of modern life has made it so easy to find, if not THE image for the job, at least AN image that will do for the job.

Breach of copyright is rife.  So much so, that it is becoming almost impossible, impractical and an most cases uneconomical to pursue. A Google search and a right-click is all it takes. And the cost of suing for a relatively small reproduction fee means that in many cases a photographer or agency will simply issue a “take-down” notice when they come across one of their images being used illegally.

In an astonishing move, Image library giant Getty Images have today turned the whole thing on is head by opening up their resource of billions of images and allowing them to be used FREE OF CHARGE for certain editorial and non profit purposes.

This means that if I want to use this professionally shot image of Kylie at the Brit Awards, for instance, I can freely do so without fear of having a breach of copyright claim slapped on me.

So how can the afford to do this?  And aren’t their contributing stock photographers going to be more than just a little annoyed seeing the images they have invested time, effort and talent into producing, being used without recompense?

Well apparently not. The business model and reasoning behind the move, is thus:

The images may only be embedded into a website or blog be using the HTML code provided to place the image within an iframe.  This means when the page is called on my website, for instance, the actual image is served by the Getty website.  This is the same method by which YouTube videos are embedded withing web pages.

Doing so ensures full attribution to both the agency and the photographer with a link back to Getty and the image  in question.  That way anyone wishing to use the image for commercial purposes, is quickly and easily taken to the very place from which it can be purchased.

So the page you are viewing at this very moment on my blog is acting as a free advert for Getty, the photographer and this picture of the lovely Kylie.

It also means that you and I can now legally use images that were hitherto way out of our reach.  Everyone, it seems, is a winner!

Getty has asserted that they will still continue to investigate and prosecute illegal commercial use of their images (and will probably do so far more strenuously).  In other words the will effectively ignore the small fry (me) and go fishing for the real copyright offenders.

I think it is a bold and brave step forward. And I think it will work.

It can be compared with the way rock band Iron Maiden recently decided to give up the fight against the illegal downloading of their music.  Instead, they employed the services of a company that specializes in analytics for the music industry by capturing everything from social media discussion to traffic on the BitTorrent network.  They were able to pinpoint where in the world their music was most popular.  They then scheduled stadium tours in those counties netting millions in the process.

A brilliant stroke of genius!

Iron Maiden’s vocalist, Bruce Dickinson, performs during a concert in Santiago during their tour of Chile in October 2013.

By |March 6th, 2014|0 Comments

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Ellen’s Oscar Selfie

samsung_galaxy_note_3_ellen_selfie_oscarsNow that’s how to get  celebrity endorsement for your product!

 …and this is how to milk it!  The best $3million Samsung ever spent.  Best of all, most of it went to charity instead of ad agencies and publishing giants.  Everyone’s a winner!

By |March 5th, 2014|0 Comments

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