This year there were a few events I photographed. Here are some of the highlights.
This year there were a few events I photographed. Here are some of the highlights.
One of the best times of the year – Christmas, time to spend with your family, time to relax, and have some fun. Christmas lights and displays are always amazing to see and every year I visit different places to take pictures of the Christmas lights. Here are some unique photos from 2018.
Every year as the old year ends and new one starts we trying to summarize what we achieved. This first summary chapter of 2018 is focused on landscapes. Some of the travels this year were spectacular and images are amazing. Enjoy the selection of some of the best.
As we step into 2019, it is only fitting to give you some of the tricks and tips from using Corel PaintShop Pro 2019 on a Windows10 computer. Image manipulation software can be difficult to use if you are not using it constantly. Have you ever figured out something just to forget it the next time you needed it and ended up spending a lot of time trying to remember? I think we all have been there at some stage. One way not to forget is to write things down. Second solution is to know where the video instructions are and watch the videos while doing it yourself. Finally, you can invest in a manual to have it as a reference.
All of those ideas are great, but it is in our nature not always follow what is logical. Therefore, in addition to my videos you can find on my blog, you can also download infographics from my website. These will be short instructions not a substitution for a user manual, which can be consulted from within the software. That said, using a single screen for reading and doing what you read is a little bit challenging. Tutorials on more complex processing and editing can be also found in the video library of the Corel Discovery Center. However, not all basics are explained and for most part it is the basics that get us frustrated when trying to edit images.
The infographics together with the video should help you tackle background removal and placement of your favorite object on a new background. Obviously, the more complex the object, the longer it may take you but the process is the same. Remember that when erasing background, you need to release mouse button from time to time to ensure that if you make a mistake an undo action will not take you back to the beginning of the process! Frustrating? Yes, and easy to forget when wiping away the background.
Hopefully, you have some fun backgrounds to work with for your editing. However, I will be creating some background collections, which will be available for download from my website for those who have signed up for my mailing list. So go ahead and sign-up to get some exclusive free offers and discounts.
Enjoy the video and if you have any questions do not hesitate to ask. If you are interested this video was recorded using Windows10 game recording tool and yes, it is my first recorded video.
Creating panoramic images is not a trivial thing and learning how to do it well is not easy. There are many different solutions, some require special lenses, others are software based. Wide angle lenses have been in many photographers’ bags for decades. They allow to take a panoramic photograph ready to print once downloaded. However, many photographers do not have one of those and majority of amateurs do not have one either.
So what can they do? Taking a series of images partly overlapping is the solution, even photos taken with a wide angle lens can be stitched together. Such series of images has to be then processed to create one single image. This is done with a software tool. One of the best tools I have used for this purpose is hugin software. I do not remember when I started using it but it was still on my old MacBook Pro. Now I use it on Windows 10 platform. It allows you to stitch horizontal and vertical panoramas, adjust their sizes and composition.
The user interface is available on three different levels: simple, advanced and expert. You can also switch between the interfaces as I frequently do while running the program.
I have seen opinions that the software is not great for beginners but I did not find it difficult at all to use. The user interface is not what many people are used to and may seem complicated or difficult but it really is very easy to use. Help content is great and can guide you through all the aspects of creating a panorama.
How to create a panorama?
Images created can be used directly or can be imported into another software for some additional processing. hugin is a great little software that does a perfect job. Obviously if there are no adequate overlap points it may struggle to join images and you may need to edit points by hand.
One thing that you need to remember is that if your images have very different light the final panorama might look strange. One solution I found was to actually ensure the correct exposure when taking pictures. It is by far the best way to get matching or gradient images. Light adjustment in software like Adobe Lightroom is a much less preferable solution as it can create artifacts and unnatural effects across the panorama. And if you want to make changes to the whole image, it is best to do them once you created and imported panorama back into Adobe Lightroom.
Crownsville Renaissance Festival is a great place to visit. This year it started from 25th August and runs till the 21st October so you still have time to visit. There is something for everyone. There are games, varied live performances, music, artisan shops, and plenty food to suit all different tastes.
If you come in the morning, you are likely to run into the King and the royal court at the entrance.
In the morning a bridge can be enchanted, just imagine your picture on this bridge with sunlight coming through the trees.
The morning is so beautiful at the festival, just walk around and find a quiet spot, not so difficult when you come early and you can just sit down, observe and rest.
Throwing axes in the Stupid Hat Area is pretty popular. And it is not just for the fellows! If you like music, there is plenty live music, just take your pick.
Giant soap bubbles are plenty fun for everyone and you can take quite spectacular images through the bubbles.
Once you have seen acrobats, plays and all the other fun, you can just sit some more and relax.
Taking pictures, especially great ones requires time, patience, great eye but also some luck. However, when traveling luck may not always be on your side. When you are driving in a car, you see this amazing view but there is nowhere to stop a car, if you are on a train it will definitely not stop for you. What should you do? Be prepared for unexpected. This way , when you see a great view or wildlife in the distance or by the road, on the road you can be ready to take a picture.
You ask how to do that? Here are some pointers from my trips around Ireland and Iceland:
In many places in Ireland and Iceland it was impossible to pull over and stop. Mostly because the roads are narrow, they have no shoulder and traffic is unpredictable so stopping is not an option. Just check out the images below, both from Ireland. Even if the road seems clear do not stop to take pictures if there is no space to pull over.
Now, how can you prepare and what should you do to make those images look the best you can?
Here are some examples of pictures taken through the front windshield of a road ahead. Probably the most classic images you may see also probably the easiest to take. I use a manual mode only, which is a bit more challenging but gives me more control over how I want the image to look.
In most cases if you are driving in a car, you will be in a front seat with your seat belt on and with your primary view being forward. Technically, you can also take pictures to your side, through an open or closed window. Those can be a bit more challenging to get the speed correctly set for the photographing an object of interest. The closer the object is to the car the more likely it will be fuzzy. You can see that effect in the image below, with flowers closest to the road are fuzzy. If you do not get shots you want the first time just keep trying. It is worth it to just practice so next time you can get a great photo.
One other interesting point is that when you taking pictures from a car your horizon can get skewed, so more than likely you will need to do a little bit of rotation of your images.
This last image was actually taken with a Zeiss camera on my Lumia 950, amazingly sharp and beautiful picture of the clouds clearing up. With a phone camera the rules are the same as with a real camera. Do not be afraid to take photos out of a car or train, just remember to set up your camera correctly and practice. Good luck!
If any of you were waiting for my continuation of my Icelandic adventures, here is the next installment – waterfalls. Pretty much everywhere you have rocks, hills you see waterfalls from very tiny to huge ones. Iceland has lots of waterfalls and I mean a lot. Some like Gullfoss or Dettifoss are extremely popular with tourists, some a little less and others are not seen much at all. The biggest correlation I found was an accessibility of the site to large tour buses. So if you want to see some less traveled part of Iceland be prepared to take some side roads and add some time to your trip. It is worth it as you will see.
So let’s start with the most popular waterfalls – Gullfoss. The popularity is increased by the fact that these waterfalls are easy to reach by bus from Reykjavik, making it a nice day trip. The waterfalls are located on Hvítá river, span two tiers and flow into a deep canyon. The size of waterfalls is frequently measured in volume of water flowing through them per second. Gullfoss in summer has an average flow of 140 cubic meters per second. Just imagine that the biggest flow rate recorded is on Boyoma Falls in Democratic Republic of Congo with 17000 cubic meters per second. Three other well known waterfalls – Niagara, Iguazu and Victoria falls have flow rates of 2400, 1700 and 1088 cubic meters per second on average. This gives you some comparison scale if you have seen any of those waterfalls.
Here are some of the images from Gullfoss. Starting with one of the more iconic views showing the tiers of the falls.
When you continue on route 1 around Iceland, you will be able to see a lot more waterfalls, the next one is located close by the road and it is called Seljalandsfoss waterfall. This one is pretty amazing as you can walk around it, just ensure you have a raincoat with you and your camera is well protected. You will get wet! This waterfall originates from the volcano glacier Eyjafjallajökull and drops some 60 meters down.
Not that far from Seljalandsfoss is Skógafoss. Waterfall is visible well from the road and it does not take long to get there. A diversion well worth it just as it was for Seljalandsfoss. This waterfall is located on Skógá River and you can walk on the river bed if the flow is not too big. The cliffs on which the waterfall is located, used to be coastal cliffs, now located some five kilometers or three miles away.
Weather in Iceland does not always oblige and pouring rain has made some of the picture taking a little challenging. When we arrived at Godafoss or Waterfall of the Gods, the rain was pouring as much from the sky as it was from the waterfalls. OK, not quite but very close, combined with strong wind, it was not fun to walk a short distance to the falls and back. When you stop to see Godafoss, you should walk across the little pedestrian bridge and see both sides of the waterfalls. The view is completely different and amazing from both sides.
All of those waterfalls are pretty popular and you will find lots of tourists stopping by, hiking and taking pictures. The reason is that all of them are very close to the main road and buses can easily stop to drop people off. I found that at least one of the sites away from the main road is definitely worth visiting. Kolufossar falls on Víðidalsá river are spectacular and while there will be visitors the numbers are nothing compare to Gullfoss. Views are just as breathtaking but judge for yourselves.
The last waterfalls I will show you are Hraunfossar waterfalls. They appear from under the lava rocks and are springwater in origin. It is a spectacular view and really different from any other waterfalls you will see.
I hope you enjoyed this chapter of Iceland adventures. There is still more to come. Iceland has amazing places to see and even if the weather is not the best, you can still enjoy the trip and take some pretty great pictures.
Have you ever taken pictures and then thought that you should have taken a video? Films and animation has always been a great medium and currently videos are considered a very important medium to be shared on social media. However, you have not taken a video but have a set of images. Not all is lost. In the past slideshows were all we could do with those images and they were awkward to share with anyone even on a computer. The technology has gone way forward and we have no ways to create a video which has similarities with old fashioned animated films.
I am going to focus on two tools I have been testing for creating videos. The first one is AdobeSpark, the second is Microsoft Photos App. Those of you who read some of my previous technical blogs know that I use Microsoft Windows 10 platform. What I decided to do was to create two videos based on the same exact images. My choice was easy, it is about the Diamond Beach in Iceland.
Let’s start with AdobeSpark.
Once you choose a video, there are some potential content options for you to choose from or you can create a video from scratch. This is what I selected and here is the workspace AdobeSpark presents you with when you start. You can add new slides and content to the ones you have. Content added can be a video, photo, text or an icon. You can add images or videos from your computer, Adobe Cloud, Adobe Stock, Dropbox, Lightroom, Google Drive or Google Photos. There is unfortunately no way to re-arrange the slides so you may need to think hard ahead of time or be prepared to move content around.
Once you added all your content, you can add music to your creation from the available files or upload your own. There is also an option to edit your theme or change layout of slides. After you are finished with editing, there are two options. First to download the file, second to share it directly from within AdobeSpark to Facebook, Twitter, email, embed into a site or copy the link. You can create a standard (6.04Mb) or square (3.75Mb) video but both of those come only in one file size. File size will depend on your content, more or larger files will create bigger final file. Another factor affecting the size is how long each frame is shown. Considering this, your ability to make a smaller file are very limited to non-existent.
Now let’s look at Microsoft Photos App. Definitely, not a first choice for most people and not a natural choice – a photo app to edit or create videos? Really?! So what can you expect from this strange solution? When you open an app, it will show you large screen with choices available for you. albums, collections, videos, people and most importantly – folders. It is through folders that you can access your images most conveniently. On the right side you select “Create“. You will have three options presented to you:
I always use custom option as it is easy and gives me lots of freedom to create what and how I want.
At this stage you select the source of your images. I used my Folders and selected folder “Diamond Beach”. All images in the folder were added to the storyboard and a default video was created based on all images in a folder. You can now add or remove photos, add text or movement. Adding text to a photo blurs the image and you can use it as a title screen. Movement can be a little surprising and annoying, so I would suggest checking what movement was added to your images and removing it if you wish or altering to the one you want.
Unlike AdobeSpark, you have quite a lot of freedom with images in Microsoft Photos and even at this stage you can do some basic editing. Obviously not meant to be a replacement for any proper job that should have been done before. Once you are happy with the layout, it is time to add music.
Music in Microsoft Photos App will adjust the length for which each frame is displayed to the music you selected. If you do not like this, it can be changed to your particular settings, just select time and alter the length. Music selection is different than in AdobeSpark, but you also can add your own composition if you wish. Your video can come in two formats – widescreen 16×9 or 4×3.
When exporting files out of Microsoft Photos, independent of aspect, you can get the final file in three different sizes: small (for this video it was 1.7Mb), medium (2.45Mb) and large (4.66Mb). The size depends on how you will use the final video. Your options when exporting are to save to OneDrive, computer or open in App. I strongly suggest not opening in the App, but saving it to your computer.
Now it is time to summarize and compare the two options.
Pros: Wide selection of input images, can import directly from web services
Cons: Web-based app limiting access to when you are connected, no connectivity to OneDrive, no image editing capabilities, no way of rearranging the image order, workspace is overly simple, making it hard to plan your project, one size file download
Microsoft Photos App:
Pros: Easy access to your OneDrive stored images, existing albums and collections on your computer, well designed workspace allowing for planning, ease of adding or editing images,ability to add 3D effects to the videos or images, multiple sized downloads
Cons: no connectivity to services beyond OneDrive, image editing still too basic, requires Windows 10 computer
I have tried Microsoft Photos video editing just because it is there but ended up liking it quite a bit. Its capabilities were actually a nice surprise and for a free software it is pretty good. The fact that it is a downloaded application on my computer, laptop or phone helps me create and edit videos everywhere, and the process does not require internet connection. So if you are after an easy and simple tool to edit or create your videos, give Microsoft Photos a try. The videos created for this blog are available to be viewed on my website. The medium sized Microsoft video can be viewed below.
Virginia Scottish Games take place every year in The Plains, VA. This year was 45th Anniversary of the games. It was packed with entertainment, competitions and fun for two days. There were athletic events, music and dancing competitions, Clan Parade, Band Parade, and lots more. The day was filled with lots to do, with special events for children to keep the youngsters occupied.
However, some kids were proudly taking part in the main events. This little fellow in the picture on the left, marched proudly with the bands across the big field.
Opening Ceremony was preceded by the Clan Parade. This year it looked a little different than in previous years as the narrow entrance to the athletic field became even narrower with bands gathering to enter the field after the Clan Parade. However, nobody seemed to mind and everyone found their way.
As the clans were leaving the athletics field, the bands entered marching up to the top of the field.
The bagpipers and drummers marched up and then down the field after doing an elaborate turn in the middle of the field. And as you can see above, the little bagpiper is marching on with the band! Keeping up with the grownups could not have been easy but he did not seem concerned or distracted.
Music was all around even after the Band Parade finished. There were bagpipers practicing, playing, bands were practicing some more for the competition.
There were also live music performances and included Glengarry Bhoys, Chambless & Muse and Glencoe Lads and Friends. For the lovers of fiddling, there were fiddling performances as well in a fiddling tent not far from the Highland dance competition.
Dance competition was tough with the sky clearing, and temperatures increasing, it got very hot very quickly. Dancers were sweating it out on and off the competition floor. Below are just some of the images from the competition. While waiting for their turn come competitors were going over the steps in their heads and moved hands in the air as if they were the feet.
I tried to capture dancing action from the competition. These are just some of the shots I took, trying to illustrate a range of movements on the dance floor.
As Athletics is an integral part of the games there was lots of action on the field: heavy weight toss, light weight toss, caber toss and sheaf toss. With so many events going on, I did not get around to all of them but here are some of the images from the weight toss events.
You can see more images from the Virginia Scottish Games on my website. If you are interested in using any of the images or if you like your own photos please contact me.