Andrew Macpherson

Studio Project

by on Jan.22, 2017, under Studio

Since we moved in, back in June 2016, we’ve been going flat-out getting the main part of the house liveable.  The Great Wall of Removal Boxes took over 2 months to clear, and is still not completely gone from the study or the garage, but we can now move, and were able to have a great family Christmas.

We’ve now commenced the big project of converting the huge 1st floor store-room into Studio space; in the past this had served as a grain-store, a wine store, and eventually just general storage for the pottery, there is evidence there once were hatches and chutes in the room, but they have all been closed off from below.   The room is 11m x 11.4m and between 4.5 and 8.5m in height — that is to say the normal walls are 4.5m and the apex of the roof a further 4m up.  At floor level we have a 2m tall box intruding from below, which my nephew considers to be the cliché position for a Bond villan’s command console, this box loses some of the floorspace  but it still seems adequate and the light downstairs is great.

Deep walls and thick insulation 

Stage 1 has been to clad the stone outer walls with 60mm foil covered foam insulation, warm batten on 600mm centres with top and bottom dwangs (as they say here — in England the word is noggins), run electric cable and finish with plasterboard and sockets.  We’ve just started tape and plaster between the plasterboard sheets, ready for painting.

Inside the studio --- a work in progress

Windows are 2.5m above floor

The next stage will be to add insulation between the rafters but we do want to keep the wood showing, as it is a great feature, with loads of character.

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Using a Tilt Shift Lens, let’s re-design for photographers not the convenience of lens makers

by on Oct.22, 2013, under Equipment, Off the wall

In the beginning cameras with lenses (vs pinholes) were built round a laboratory optical bench, where the various elements could be relatively easily adjusted. This led to the “Stand” and “Field” plate cameras where he lens and the plate (sensor) could be moved relative to each other.

This arrangement had lots of freedom, but the basic arrangements were relatively easily split into what we now call Shift or Perspective Control, and Tilt where we take control of the “plane” of focus. I put “plane” in quotation marks because in the general case, where very clever lens designers have not been at work, that plane is actually the round inside of a ball, and we rely on depth of field and the effective radius of that ball to compensate.

Perspective adjustment (shift) works by setting the back of the camera flat on to whatever we want to look straight, and then moving the lens up, down and sideways relative to the back of the camera until the image appears in then right place on the sensor. Shift lets you take photos of mirrors apparently in the centre of your frame without showing the reflection of the camera, of a tall building with its sides vertical without having to hire a helicopter to get to that position half way up and so on. The usual issue with these shots is the vignetting of the further parts of the image — in effect only half the image will suffer, and in digital post production one stage will be to add temporary blank pixels (or a layer with the 180°opposite shift for symmetry) to the “near” side of the image so that the vignetting circle is around the midpoint, allowing standard lens correction tools to be used to cancel it out in post. With a Canon TS lens on a tripod one can simply rotate the lens to get the perfect 180° reverse shift to make sure the generated composite is the correct size.

Tilt is much harder to use. What tilt lets you do is play with your plane of focus, either reducing it to a narrow line across your frame, or bringing a large receding plane into focus, from foreground right to the furthest distance. This is where the mechanical design of he lens can make all the difference to how easy the lens is to use for the photographer.

The ideal Tilt lens will have a tripod mount ring, and the tilt’s axis or point of rotation will be across the sensor of the camera. This lets the photographer compose their shot, and use the most sensitive central focal sensor on their camera to get a sharp focus, then switch to using a peripheral focal sensor and rotate the camera body (remember we’ve clamped the lens to the tripod, leaving the camera body mobile) until that point too is in focus. The central point will have remained in focus because that’s at the centre of rotation. The composition too will remain almost unaltered.

My Canon TS lenses completely fail on the usability front. They rotate about the front of the camera body rather than the sensor, with no regard to the photographer who will have to try to use it, each movement of the tilt mechanism changes the composition and the focus. This fault is also there in Lensbabys, Samyang and all sorts of other lenses with tilt capability. The “Why?” Is fairly obvious: by having a short radius the lens designer gives themselves twice the angle for a given movement, and reduces the consequential vignetting but at a massive cost in ease of use.

I’m still searching for a lens manufacturer with the guts to trade “spec” figures for usability

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Photographing Charity Cycle Rides – lessons learned

by on Jul.28, 2013, under Equipment, Learning

Well it’s the 4th time I’ve had a go at photographing the participants in the London to Cambridge sponsored charity cycle ride. Each time I get a little closer to getting it right, a little more confident of getting a reasonable set of results.

So where have I got to?

  1. This may be a daytime event but I definitely want flash to get separation from a darker background
  2. If the aim is to get each participant there is not time to capture each and get AI servo lock, and definitely not time to focus so a big depth of field and manual pre-focus is crucial, especially as the riders are all over the road, which means
    • Strobe in high speed sync
    • or high power low ISO (recharging time is an issue)
    • This year I had a speed light with an external battery pack which both gave good recycle time and over 2000 discharges at 1/8 from the 12 AA cells, but in hindsight I could have done with being at 1/2 power (or 2 strobes at 1/4) but I’m not sure about charging being fast enough
  3. It may be worthwhile using a crop frame sensor and shorter (absolute) focal length lens to improve the effective depth of field for a given composition
  4. Get the other stuff right then shoot medium JPEG, there are several thousand riders, one really does not want 100G of raw to process
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Liberty Business in Stortford

by on Jun.26, 2013, under Off the wall

The Mayor’s Business Networking event around the Market Square in Stortford variously in Baroosh, Zizzi and Host, and with a few brave souls in the square itself

The Camera Club, had been asked to take a few shots… Seems I was the only one available

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Opportunistic lighting

by on Jun.20, 2013, under Equipment, Learning

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A neighbour’s daughter was being particularly cute, telling her aunt to pick up a book and read, then gazing into one herself.

Outside we had bright sunlight, with a slightly north facing window. The window light reflects ideally from the book into her face, so I sneaked a grab shot, holding the camera low (and failing to get the focus perfect- it’s on her arm rather than her eye) I thought I would share the shot for the lighting anyway

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Photo challenge cards, topic suggestions needed

by on May.14, 2013, under Camera Club, Learning

In preparation for the season when the club goes out and about I”m making up some sets of photo challenge cards, 5 topics per card, which I’ll make available here in due course ready to print and run through the card cutter (standard10 cards per sheet cutter when the image is centred & printed)

In the meantime I’ld very much appreciate suggestions to add as topics in the different contexts — the cards will be based on topics such as town, country, seaside, day, night, seasonal, different weather conditions etc. I’ll make up a grid where the topics apply

The final aim being to have cards prepared and to hand, as a fallback whenever we sally forth.

Please leave suggestions below, or tweet them to me. many thanks!

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