Thanks to everyone who contributed pictures and took part in the discussion for this lively and interesting meeting. It showed just how smart people are getting at seeing the potential in pictures they might otherwise have seen as failures, and then having the necessary editing skills to turn them into great pictures.

I’ll start with a couple of inspired black and white conversions, both accomplished using SilverEfex Pro, a Plug-in for PhotoShop, Lightroom and Elements now available free from Google – the Nik Collection. I paid 100 quid for this a year ago, so get it while you can!

Chris described how disappointed he was with his shot of a railway enthusiast. That is, until he tried cropping it carefully to improve the composition and bringing up the contrast and structure of the picture in the software.

Boys and their toys, the original

Boys and their toys, final version

Jane took her original picture of an arthritic but highly skilled fisherman working on his fishing gear on a Lumix TZ60 camera. Although she also carries a dSLR, she finds in many cases this compact camera gives her results that are just as good.

Experienced fishing hand, original

Experienced fishing hand, final version

Philip showed a photo he entered in the last PDI competition which was criticised over the dominance of the leafy branches included in the corner. The judge said these should have been removed to concentrate attention on the landscape. Philip showed a version in which he had done this using the Spot Healing Tool, and after some discussion it was suggested a good deal of the sky now needed cropping out to rebalance the picture and bring attention to the landscape.

Chalke Valley, Wiltshire, entered PDI

Chalke Valley, Wiltshire, edited version

Jeff showed a picture of the London skyline taken from the Tate Modern. The judge criticised it for lack of Oomph! What he meant was lack of contrast – the picture looked flat because of the limited tonal range. It’s important to understand that this is not due to wrong exposure; it is caused by the ambient lighting of the scene and cannot be corrected in camera. Although Jeff was using Picasa, a free editing program, simply moving the Contrast slider is enough to improve the look of the picture.

Changing skyline, entered PDI

Changing skyline after contrast adjustment

David P explained that he was in a bit of a quandary over a picture, ‘Princess Fiona Waving’ that the judge said should have been cropped to exclude one of the figures (Shrek). No issue with that, but liking the picture, he entered another taken at the same time in the SPA Individual Open Print Competition. Again, didn’t do very well, but he wondered what members felt about this being entered in our internal print competitions.

The point being, our rules state: Images from the same member, differing only slightly from a previous one that has scored 7½ points or more may not be submitted, irrespective of form. After some discussion, the consensus was that the two photos were different enough to allow re-entry. Thanks guys, look forward to seeing this one again!

Princess Fiona Waving entered PDI

Princess Fiona Waving SPA print – plus what she really looks like..

Mark gave the final presentation of the evening describing what High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography is, how to do it and examples of his results using the technique. He explained that the dynamic range of the human eye is significantly better than any digital sensor so far invented. This means we can see details in highlights and shadows at light levels camera sensors lose their sensitivity.

The Lincoln Memorial

For example in his photo of the Lincoln Memorial, a straight shot would have shown completely black foreground and sky, and some of the lighter areas of the Memorial could have been blown out. By taking several different exposures and merging them in suitable software, these details can be preserved. The photos can be merged in Lightroom, PhotoShop, or dedicated software such as Photomatix.

He concluded by showing a couple of YouTube videos (there are many available on the subject), one quite useful and informative . The other zany and almost incomprehensible

I learnt a lot from the meeting and hope everyone else did too.

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