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Photography - creative & technical

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The Dark Skies of the North Pennines
An amateur photographer's delight

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MY TALKS

Table of events

Kelso (border terrier) and shadow

Canon EOS 5D 100-400mm @ 400mm
1/1000s f/11 ISO400 2007:04:27 17:56:17

This web site is about both creative and technical aspects of photography.

It may be of interest to anyone with a camera. Find out how to take interesting photos of all kinds of things.

Have a go at photographing the night sky. It's surprising what simple cameras can reveal, even from our light-polluted towns and cities. There is a real chance you could spot something new - a nova or a comet.

There are more advanced techniques on these pages for those who are already hooked on astrophotography. Measure your images and do some real science.

This site is continually evolving. A principal message is: take a look at what I have managed to photograph using readily available equipment (not vastly expensive) and go out there, try it for yourself and be amazed. Today's cameras make it possible to capture things that only very determined professionals could do a decade or two ago. I provide some pointers in these pages about how to go about it.

 

Telescopic photo of M42 nebula in Orion

Canon EOS 5D MkII
[ISO6400 51x32s] + [ISO800 35x16s]
254mm Newtonian f=1200mm f/4.8
HEQ5 equatorial mount, not guided
2012 Jan 16 21:51:25-22:40:11 UT

GR's Image Processor (GRIP) is free to download from here and will run on just about any computer. It's not limited to Windows and it can do many things that standard digital photo applications cannot.

And if you are a programmer you can find here all the information needed to extend GRIP to do whatever you want. It's a comprehensive starting basis for very creative or highly technical image processing and analysis.

Along the way GRIP has grown into a flexible general-purpose tool that I use in various ways to assist my own photography. Not only is the complete working software of GRIP available in these pages but also its workings are discussed, along with many aspects of digital photography. This is not a commercial venture. I am simply making it available for others to use.

Scientific uses of the software are possible because GRIP includes many facilities for measuring photographs. There is a printable scale for calibrating photographs when they are taken.

 

Channel swapping on photos of waves breaking

Canon EOS5D 24-105mm lens @ 47mm 3 x 1/20s f/22 ISO800 2006:06:27 17:49:37

Creative, fun and artistic uses abound too and examples will be shown in these pages. Further possibilities in that direction are limited only by your imagination. Here is an example created with GRIP from 3 successive images:

Difference between 2 heron images

Canon EOS10D Sigma 70-300mm @ 300mm
2 x 1/750s f/9.5 ISO200 2004:08:28

The photo of heron and curlews shown here is another example, created by subtracting 2 photos. Both of those examples required the camera to be on a tripod to provide a fixed background in successive shots of some moving subjects.

GRIP is written in Java. Some will be quite surprised at the idea of processing photographic-sized images with Java. So one aim of this site is to demonstrate that in fact this is very feasible with today's readily available computing power. Only quite ordinary PC's are required. However, these pages delve into certain quirks of the Java programming environment and how they have to be dealt with in order to achieve satisfactory performance.

If you only want to improve your photographic technique, there are pages about that kind of thing too, so please explore from here. See the contents and index pages.

I have been using Canon EOS digital SLR cameras since the beginning of 2001, starting with the 3 megapixel D30. I have traded up 4 times since then so I am now using a 5D MkII. That has over 21 megapixels. One of its RAW images loaded into memory occupies 124 megabytes. I almost always photograph in raw mode and the significance of that is also explained in these pages. I will show how such images can be processed in only a second or two by GRIP running on a typical PC under Windows.

The third-party library jrawio, used by GRIP for reading raw images, is not yet fully working for the 5D MkII camera, so I first have to convert my raw images to TIFF format. I am hoping that will only be a temporary problem.

I have received user feedback that GRIP does also work fine under Linux, MacOS and even the latest incarnation of OS/2. It should work on any platform for which Java (Standard Edition) is available.

 

My talks

I give a talk entitled "Photographing the Night Sky". It is aimed at photographers, so I assume no knowledge of astronomy but a basic familiarity with digital cameras (not necessarily of the SLR type). The talk lasts for 1 to 2 hours, adjustable for the needs of the audience. I cover 3 stages for beginning astrophotography:

  1. Camera only on a fixed tripod
  2. Camera only on a motorised (equatorial) mount
  3. Camera looking through a telescope
DateTimeVenue
2014 Jul 17(done)Bowsden Photography Club, Northumberland
2014 Oct 9(done)Blyth Photographic Society, Northumberland
2014 Nov 47:30pmMasham Photographic Club, N. Yorkshire
2014 Nov 219:00am(!)Amble Photographic Group, Northumberland
2015 Jan 137:30pmRainton Meadows Photography Group, Sunderland
2015 Feb 57:30pmTynemouth Photographic Society, Tyne & Wear *
2015 Feb 177:30pmBerwick and District Camera Club, Northumberland
2015 Mar 117:00pmRiding Mill Photographic Society, Northumberland
2015 Sep 167:30pmPenrith & District Camera Club, Cumbria
2015 Nov 107:30pmCarlisle Camera Club, Cumbria

* The Tynemouth talk will be a more general one. As it is my own club they have already heard about Night Photography.

About the author

Graham Relf is a keen amateur photographer who has dabbled in astrophotography for many years. So long in fact that during that time he has progressed from a Kodak Brownie box camera (which he now wishes he had not dismantled) to a Canon EOS digital SLR. He has worked in software design and development for almost as long. He started programming in FORTRAN using punched cards but was until recently a technical architect for a major commercial web site. He has now retired. In the 1980s and 90s he worked for a pioneering company in the field of image analysis, mainly for biological and medical applications. He has a degree in physics (from Imperial College) and is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.

He is fascinated by both scientific and creative uses of digital imaging and he is particularly keen to encourage others to try astrophotography and programming.

His image processor, GRIP, was primarily written for his own astrophotography, in the programming language Java. It was used in making all of the astrophotographs shown on this site. It is available for others to use and to extend for their own purposes.

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