Spiderman visited Zรผrich!

One of the direct consequences of my Scavenger trip to Orlando (more about that later) is that I got weirdly motivated to start learning “proper” photo editing/processing. And hence, here comes my first attempt at that – and a bit of write-up, both to not forget what I did, and to share with whoever may find it useful.

I started with a picture of Spiderman taken during the workshop:

The picture itself is a Spiderman action figure, held with a piece of 8-gauge wire to some box in the room, and lit with a Lume cube (I’m DEFINITELY getting a couple of these) held in the hand that was not holding the camera. This is already processed a tiny bit in Darktable – levels, (debatable) white balance, that sort of things. I exported in TIFF to not start compressing before I had to, but I’m not sure this was absolutely necessary.

Then I looked into my archives for places where I could put Spiderman, and I ran into this older picture, snagged with my phone a while ago to show snow falling quite late in the year:

Now that I had something that I thought could work, time to start GIMP and work on it! The first step was getting a cleaner image of Spiderman, removing the background. I first cropped the image to only contain the part I was interested in, added a layer mask to my image, and worked with the paintbrush tool (with finer and finer brushes) to remove all the stuff that was Not Spiderman. I left the bit of wire that held the figure on the waist, I figured it was not that visible and could be confused with a belt, or something. In order to keep the layer and the mask (if I wanted to go back to the picture), I created a new layer from the “visible content”, and that’s what I copy in the other image. (I have no idea if that’s the “canonical” way of doing things, but it worked that way for me ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

Then I pasted and scaled/positioned the figure in the image, doing my best to match the lights in both images.

I did make a mistake there: I realized that my clipping was not great (there was still a lot of stuff around the legs, in particular), but instead of correcting it in the initial image, I started correcting it in the composite. Retrospectively, it doesn’t make much sense; I’ll blame jet lag.

I blurred the background so that it would look better (especially since Spidey’s legs DO have focus blur) – I’m not sure if it was blurred enough, it’s tough to tell. I also re-added a couple of brighter spots in the image to better match the light on Spiderman, which I think kind of helped, but that I might have over done it a bit. I also added a bit light below my pasted Spiderman. I also tried my best to better match the color temperature of both images – I think it’s okay.

Finally, Spiderman cannot be complete without a couple of spider webs – especially since his hands are very much in position! These ones were paths, stroked in grey and edited with a large white brush to make them a little bit less uniform. I tried playing with the gradient tool (which seemed…. made for the task), but failed at it. Then, I decreased the opacity of the “web” layer, and added a bit of blur to it. The spider webs are in my opinion definitely the weakest part of the image, and I kind of believe that making them better would require better drawing skills than mine ๐Ÿ˜‰

Still, for a first attempt at this sort of things, I’m super pleased with the result ๐Ÿ™‚

25th Scavenger Hunt – 3/3

It seems fitting to start writing this post at the airport while waiting from my flight back from the Scavenger meet-up, where I got to meet a great group of great people, learn stuff and get a lot of ideas of new things to try and to experiment. But, without further ado, here are the remaining pictures of my 25th Scavenger Hunt submission (the first two parts are in previous posts: 25th Scavenger Hunt – 1/3 and 25th Scavenger Hunt – 2/3).

Green

I’ve been wanting to experiment with photographing rocks and minerals for a while now (but lacking the proper subject to do so). And then, at some point, I remembered that there was a mineral shop that I wanted to visit in Zรผrich, and that it had been closed every time I had been there (it’s in a part of town where I like strolling, but mostly stroll on Sundays, for some reason!) I finally pushed their door one afternoon, and came home with a small haul of small stones, including this very pretty Green emerald stone. And no, emerald doesn’t break the bank when it’s in that form ๐Ÿ˜›

The picture is a composite of between 10 and 20 pictures, focus-stacked using Zerene. I shot the stone on my paper background, and was pretty surprised to see its texture appear below the stone – but I happened to really like the effect (not to mention being profoundly unable to edit it away :P), so I kept it that way.

Quarter

My shot for Quarter started as a backup “if I don’t get a better idea” shot – literally shooting my dinner, in fairly crappy evening light on top of that. And then, I started playing a bit with it, darkening the background, playing with the orientation, and it started to become a shot I didn’t hate, so it ended up being the final shot.

Knife

Knife is one of the last words I tackled, if I remember correctly. Inspiration had not struck there either, so I went for yet another easy kitchen shot as my husband was cutting onions.

Button

Something would be missing if I did a Scavenger Hunt without a single board game picture ๐Ÿ˜‰ So for Button, here’s a picture of Patchwork, a very neat two-player game where players compete at building the best quilt, and where buttons are used as a currency and as victory points.

It hasn’t always been the case (I’m thinking of a Squash entry for a previous hunt), but now I’m trying to get a credible game state whenever I take board game pictures. And the easiest way to do that is to actually play the game, even by myself playing the different players (which is exactly what I did there).

And the picture itself was mostly a matter of finding a pleasant enough angle.

Ice

That’s the most accidental one of the whole set: I went to the aquarium to shoot Sponge, I came home, and I realized I could play the penguins for Ice. Not a great picture by any means, but it’s part of the full set, so I’ll be happy with that ๐Ÿ™‚

Remote

Second self-portrait (over a set of 26 pictures, I would have expected more of them!) for Remote. Buying a remote trigger for my camera was one of the best decisions I made, because I really use it quite often, either for that kind of application or to avoid moving the camera when triggering the shutter manually. So for once, it’s very visible in the picture ๐Ÿ™‚

I was also playing with the studio lights that my colleague had lent me – I’m not necessarily convinced by my work with them on this picture, but I like how my hand has more light than the rest of me. And it was generally speaking a good exercise for me to start playing with these things (although it gets warm very fast!). Also: probably should have brushed my hair before taking that picture ๐Ÿ˜› (But hey, this is a photography thing, not a modelling thing ๐Ÿ˜€ )

I had a different set of pictures with a pose where I’m holding the remote as if it were a pistol; I liked the image more, but I was not comfortable sharing it publicly, so you get this one instead ๐Ÿ™‚

Donut

My Donut was an unexpected find in the frozen goods aisle of a large supermarket – I took a couple of picture with my phone from above, and boom. The plan B was to have my husband make some donuts during the Hunt time – he probably wouldn’t have objected to the idea ๐Ÿ˜‰

The picture is somewhat more processed than usual – for some reason, I was trying to get a “retro” look for this picture, because it felt like the right thing for it; I’m actually pretty happy with how it turned out.

Yellow

Yellow also benefited from my trip to the mineral shop that gave me Green at the top of this post. It was significantly more annoying to shoot, though, even if it’s a single image (not a composite). That stone is obviously much more interesting when you see the inclusions and the transparency, which meant backlighting, which meant struggling to find a way to hold that thing vertically – it doesn’t hold on its own, and it’s small enough that there’s no easy way to find a support that doesn’t hide it completely. I finally solved the problem by leaning the stone against my studio lamp, and putting it over a box covered with my faithful dark fabric.

The processing was mostly making the blacks black and the whites white (although I failed at that in the left corner and I’m grumpy now that I see it).

And there, those were all my entries for the 25th Scavenger Hunt… which makes me want to ask, do we have a list for 26th yet? ๐Ÿ˜€

25th Scavenger Hunt โ€“ 2/3

Second post of my Scavenger Hunt pictures! The first part and a bit of context is here: 25th Scavenger Hunt – 1/3.

Leaf

My Leaf comes from… my balcony. I have a 5th floor balcony, all concrete and metal and everything, and that thing’s been growing in the drain ๐Ÿ™‚ Life… finds a way, I suppose. The picture was mostly a matter of lying down on the balcony, arranging the offshoot to get the right angle over the drain grille (which I really like as a background here).

Olive

Olive was also a theme for last hunt, and I was super happy with my entry there, but completely out of ideas for a new one. Lukily, this pretty MG spawned in my neighborhood (and stayed long enough that I have multiple views of it, even if they’re all on my phone!)

Vase

My Vase entry is firmly on the “I’m happy with this one” side. It started with a bouquet of tulips, which I had initially bought for another word of this hunt (one that has not been revealed yet, shhh!), and ended up being used in yet another image (but not in the original theme) ๐Ÿ™‚ I took a fair amount of pictures of that (by that time wilted) bouquet – this one was taken on the floor, in front of my dishes cabinet, and it worked really well in my opinion, with the white-blue-grey of the vase and the white of the cabinet behind. I’m also very happy with the crop, which happened almost by accident. Generally speaking, I like that picture ๐Ÿ™‚

Earring

Earring also ended up being a favorite of mine, despite being somewhat in the “hmm, I don’t really have an idea there”. I actually searched Google Images for inspiration – that’s where I got the idea of setting up on the side of a glass. And then it kind of clicked – I went for a “after the wedding” theme, using my own wedding jewelry (and my husband’s cufflinks), adding the hair pins in one of the glass (there’s definitely a memory of removing a gazillion hair pins ๐Ÿ˜€ ), and finishing the image with a piece of ribbon, also coming from our “wedding memories” box. Setting up all of that in my softbox, and voilร  !

Fire

Fire would probably have ended up with me playing with me playing with candles in one way or another, if my husband hadn’t decided to try his hand at crรจme brรปlรฉe during Hunt time (better: FANCY crรจme brรปlรฉe, with roquefort and pecans. It was delicious.) And I actually manage to react quickly enough for a “waaaait a minute, this is relevant to my interests” camera-grabbing. A thing of note on that image is that I flipped it on the vertical axis because it “felt” better that way, which is not something I often think of, and I’m definitely happy I did, because the image is better that way. Sometimes things are weird ๐Ÿ™‚

Chocolate

For Chocolate, my husband is also to be credited ๐Ÿ™‚ He made some chocolate (it’s a thing that happens from time to time – I started it, he took over ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), I arranged it in a corner of the kitchen and snagged that shot. Easy-peasy!

I had a “backup shot” with some (delicious) hot chocolate in a cafรฉ in Zรผrich, but I ended up going for this one that I liked more (for one thing, it’s pretty difficult to make the difference, on a photography, between a hot chocolate and an espresso… except by the size of the cup!)

Moon

There was a full Moon and clear skies a few days after the Scavenger Hunt start – perfect opportunity for some balcony shots! This image is a composite of two – the lines and halo are from my neighbor’s balcony (the moon was “trapped” in there for a while), and the moon on top was shot at a different exposure. I’m happy that I had previous experience with taking pictures of the moon, because it’s non-trivial at first glance, but it goes well with the the right technique (expose at f/11 – 1/250 – ISO as required, use tripod and remote, do NOT focus at infinity, use live view and zoom and peak focus to focus properly).

I was expecting to go for a more “natural” look of the composite, but I actually kind of liked the “quirky” effect that this one had (it’s like the moon’s a penny!). It was my first shot of the Hunt, and I’m still quite happy with it.

Jellybean

I had a lot of fun with Jellybean. I don’t eat much candy; I’d assume I could find an equivalent of jellybeans in Switzerland, but I didn’t find anything convincing when I browsed my supermarket aisle. Hence, time for some creative solutions: let’s have… jelly beans, I guess. I found a pack of red strawberry jelly, which I made with slightly less water than was written on the package to get something that would really hold together for the picture. And I took the prettiest dry beans I could find, sorted though the package for the best looking ones, assembled all of this, and tadaa! At first I wanted to just do a “food” shot, but I decided it’d be funnier to go for the “I don’t know what all these people are raving about, jellybeans are DISGUSTING!” approach ๐Ÿ™‚

Pencil

My first idea for Pencil was to go for a bunch of pencil shavings – you can always get a pretty graphical shot with these, and I liked the idea of just “suggesting” the pencils by their absence. But in the end, the laziness prevailed and I went for a shot of my pencil box. It turns out that I broke my blue pencil, and it’s consequently significantly shorter than the other ones, which give a bit of interest to the picture. (But I do own the replacement of that pencil somewhere ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). I spent a large amount of time sorting the pencils in an order that made sense to me, and then some time shooting them from different angles, before deciding for that one.

25th Scavenger Hunt – 1/3

I’ve been participating for a few hunts to what has been known as Chrysta Rae’s Scavenger Hunt, as Google+ Scavenger Hunt, and which these days is the Photography Scavenger Hunt – and I may or may not be in the US right now for next week’s Scavenger meetup ๐Ÿ˜‰

This was the 25th Hunt, and as a way to celebrate, we got a very large hunt: 26 words! They were the words of the first Hunt, to which I didn’t participate. And, as you’d expect from the number, there was one word per letter of the alphabet.

I did manage to submit a picture for each word – and I’m very proud of that – although the overall quality of the pictures is obviously very inconsistent ๐Ÿ™‚ (I’m still VERY HAPPY with a significant amount of my shots, so there’s that ๐Ÿ™‚ )

In this post and the following two, I’ll present what I submitted; I’ll present them in the same order as they were revealed in our community, because this way I don’t have to think as much ๐Ÿ˜‰ And I’m adding a link to the community albums as well – these are definitely fun to browse!

Acorn

I thought I’d be stumped by Acorn until almost the last minute. And then I remembered that the Swiss card game Jass had an Acorn suite! So I went to my neighboring toy shop, bought a maxi set of Jass cards (which means I can now play Jass – I just need to learn how to play ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) and, after a bit of tinkering, I arrived at the shot above. I’m not super happy with it because I think it’s quite boring, but I’m happy I found something to submit ๐Ÿ™‚

Z

I recently started playing with lettering and brush pen calligraphy, so that made my submission for Z kind of obvious. The drill sheet comes from The Postman’s Knock, and the picture itself is pretty straightforward ๐Ÿ™‚

Xylophone

I think my Xylophone entry is my favorite for this Hunt. SOME PEOPLE argue that a XYLOphone is necessarily wood – and they’re not wrong, BUT considering the Hunt album, it’s VERY CLEAR that Fisher Price has done A LOT for the popular image that comes to mind when saying “xylophone” ๐Ÿ˜‰

So I made mine with glasses filled with water – something which, as far as I can tell, happens at roughly one wedding out of two at least ๐Ÿ˜‰ – and I used food coloring to evoke said Fisher Price image. I then played with the angle of the light – the one I ended up shooting had the light pretty low, which allowed to get colored shadows, which I really, really liked, at the cost of fairly strong reflections, which I liked… less.

Post-processing was mostly color correction to get a better visual (especially on the red and the orange) – I’m almost tempted to correct it now since I’ve seen that I had forgotten to correct the little dots at the bottom of the glasses for consistency ๐Ÿ™‚

And, for the record: this xylophone is _roughly_ in tune – I could play a few tunes on it without hurting my ears too much (I do not have a very good ear, though ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

Sponge

For my Sponge entry, I went on a day trip to Konstanz – which I documented already: Sea Life. I had gone there for the specific purpose of shooting a sponge picture, and I’m happy the trip worked out ๐Ÿ™‚

Whistle

For Whistle, I knew I wasn’t going to be stuck, because I knew that, in the worst case, I’d setup and shoot Whistle Stop (the board game). But then I was actually too lazy to setup the game, so I fell back on this – which involved a significant amount of YouTube watching to be able to pull off a credible whistle gesture. And no, I still can’t whistle that way. I’m very disappointed.

Hamburger

My Hamburger submission was a cell phone picture snagged at Fork&Bottle during a dinner with friends. It was a “backup” shot that I ended up using almost as is.

Underwear

Underwear (careful, NSFW album) was the word I had estimated with the highest chance of stumping me when the list came out. That’s not the kind of theme I’m super comfortable with ๐Ÿ˜€ But in the end, I’m very happy with what I came up with. I was definitely going for a “Nike ad” kind of aesthetics, and I think I pulled it off. (Well, except for the Adidas bag below, I guess.) It was also an opportunity to experiment with real studio lights and reflectors than a colleague of mine had lent me (which allowed me to conclude that I really didn’t want the same softbox setup because it was a huge pain to assemble ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

Newspaper

Another uninspired shot for Newspaper ๐Ÿ˜‰ I almost snagged a picture from someone reading a newspaper on the train, but I didn’t manage to actually gather the courage to do that. So instead, I setup my tripod and my camera timer to take pictures every few seconds while I prepared newspaper for recycling (in Switzerland we have to bind paper together to recycle it) – so at least I learnt how to program my camera timer for that sort of sequence ๐Ÿ™‚

Tire

I don’t exactly remember when I got the idea of “ooooh I need LEGO” for the Tire theme, but it was early enough that I had made a few attempts at setting things up with my regular collection of toys and concluded that I needed a figure at another scale than what I had. That made it quite obvious that I needed a LEGO Technic figurine – so I hit Bricklink, ordered a couple, and they arrived a few days later (so I’m now the owner of a couple of LEGO Technic guys.)

I honestly wish I had taken the time to re-shoot this one – at least to get a black road instead of my white-ish balcony. (I tried to edit it in post-processing and failed miserably ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). Part of my issue there was that I couldn’t think of a place where I could find believable black terrain and not feel super self-conscious with my setup :/ So to me, this one falls into the category of “I liked my idea, I’m really not convinced about my implementation”.

That’s it for this first reveal post – more to come!

52Frames, weeks 17, 18 and 19

I haven’t posted my 52Frames pictures in the past three weeks over here, so let’s fix that!

Week 17 – Upside Down

Fine, this one I had already posted when I talked about the Zรผrich Botanical Garden. Reflections were explicitly on topic for the “Upside Down” theme, and I accidentally found that one, so there it is. I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t get a cleaner reflection – but it’s pretty hard to find a ripple-free moment at a time where there’s a lot of visitors, including some who throw stones in the pond ๐Ÿ™‚

Week 18 – The Dark Side

I’ll admit a lack of time, inspiration and motivation for The Dark Side theme – especially since I hurt myself that week! (I sprained my ankle, I’m fine, but it’s still SUPER annoying.) So I snapped that one and called it “The Dark Side of Holidays” ๐Ÿ˜‰ With a bonus dark chocolate line-up ๐Ÿ˜›

Week 19 – Textures

I was actually looking forward to the Texture theme, because I was envisioning a “hunt for textures” photo-walk, which, considering the picture of Week 18… kind of did not happen. Thankfully, SOMEONE has been baking and working on their buttercream piping skills, so I got a yummy texture picture for their efforts ๐Ÿ˜‰

Zรผrich Botanical Garden

Last week-end, the weather was quite nice, and I wanted to go for a walk – so we ended up in the Zรผrich botanical garden. I had been a couple of times, but in particular I don’t think I had ever entered the large greenhouses – despite their pretty characteristic look.

The main issue with greenhouses is that their climate is, by design, not very compatible with, well, me – I still had a very good time taking pictures of the different specimens there.

The words: “OH THOSE ARE SO CUTE” have been uttered:

as well as “THESE CACTI ARE SO FLUFFY!”

The outside of the garden was also very nice – the frogs were very noisy (probably to compensate for the fact that they were not very visible) and I found some weird stuff too.

The full gallery is available on SmugMug and on Google Photos.

Sea Life in Konstanz

Last week, I went on the other side of the German border to go visit the Sea Life aquarium in Konstanz to take pictures. Here my favorites – and the full album is available on Google Photos or on Smugmug.

I enjoyed my visit – the aquariums are well presented, there’s a lot of information, and it seems very kid-friendly (which made MY life slightly more complicated because there was so many things at a lower level ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). I think I may have missed some stuff – because it seems weird that an aquarium would not have any jellyfish (so I probably missed the jellyfish ๐Ÿ˜ฆ ).

On the photography side, I went with my K-1 fitted with my trusty 24-70/2.8 (I cannot BELIEVE I actually hesitated buying that glass. It’s wonderful.) I’m quite happy that it’s definitely possible to push the ISO to 6400 in low-light and to still get reasonable results – the noise is visible, but not too problematic. Autofocus was however sometimes pretty/very hard to get. I still need to study how to handle noise properly in Darktable, because right now I’m blindly applying a preset that I got… somewhere, and that does the job well enough, but I think there’s room for improvement there.