Thursday, 17 March 2011

Out for Coffee

Last weekend I took a break from the thesis writing I've been doing lately and headed out to Dalkey to meet a friend of mine and of course I took my camera along. We wandered along the coast in search of a seal we had seen earlier in the day and ended up following a yacht which was slowly making its way south.

Yacht and Dalkey Island

It was a typical "soft" day in Ireland with plenty of clouds and the occasional rain shower. During one of these showers we sheltered in a coffee shop called Mugs, which I highly recommend and this gave me a chance to play with my 35mm 1.8 lens again. Shooting wide open allowed me to capture our food and drink with a really shallow depth of field and gave me results I really liked. I'm sure if I had more time to play around before our coffees got cold I could of achieved better but I was just glad to get a few photos for the first time in a while. 

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Redesigning Smugmug

I have had a Smugmug account now for 4 months and after initially going with the default theme before I decided last week a change was in order. The black theme that is the standard smugmug was good but I felt that a lighter colour would really make my photos pop. I love smugmug, every since I was first pointed to it from Trey Ratcliffs Stuck in Customs blog in the summer of 2010. I think the way people have their portfolios setup there is fantastic. And one of the great things is that all the sites are unique. That is because of the number of ways there is to customize your site. 

First of all you can a professional site done by anyone who specializes in CSS or if you feel confident enough in your own coding skills there is an advanced customization section that will allow you to build your own site. Me, well I'm a photographer and a chemist and don't even know what CSS stands for without googling it so I went the Easy Customization route. 

By selecting Control Panel from the Tools on your homepage, you can select the 2nd last tab which is customize. As you can see from the picture above there are plenty of options under the customization section here,
  • Bio - fairly self explanatory really, tell your adoring fans about yourself
  • Easy Customizer - the option I choose, and what I'll explain further
  • Advanced Customizer - where the CSS experts can go and play
  • My Themes - build your own themes, again a knowledge of CSS required
  • All-Page Themes - this is where you can select one of the many, great-looking, themes that Smugmug has ready for you to select
Selecting edit at the Easy Customizer line brings up the preview screen (see below) where on the left you can see what your edits will look like on the right giving you various options.

All the edits that are made can be saved and previewed in this pane and when you are done, you can save your edits or publish your changes straight away or if you hate the changes you've made just start all over again. The options on the right make changing your Smugmug site to the way you want it very very simple. 

So lets go through the options;

Basic Appearance:

This lets you select light or dark and depending on your theme selected will change it accordingly. I've selected the default theme so my background comes out white and the dark option will make the background black. 

The browser options allow you to select what is displyed in the browser title and in the bookmarks.

The header section is one the sections where you can really make your mark on the site. 
The first option is to show/hide the smugmug header, I like to have mine hidden as I don't think it fits in with the scheme of my site.

Next is the custom banner section. Here you you can choose your banner to be either text or an image. If you choose an image, you navigate to an image on your computer to upload. If you choose text, there are plenty of options here. In the field you marked Text, enter what you want to be displayed e.g. Damian Synnott Photography. You can then select your font, font size, colour and the alignment. The best thing is that you see it all update in the left pane as you make changes.
The click to URL lets you set where your visitors go when they select the banner, mine sends my viewers back to the hompage. 

The navigation bar is an excellent tool and one I will deal with toward the end of this post. 

Here you can select what you want as your background. I selected just a block white colour but you can also choose a custom image from your computer or one of the default backgrounds that Smugmug provides for you. Looking around the many many Smugmug sites you can see what people can do with backgrounds to really make their site stand out.
The text options allow you to select the font and colours for the text you will use on your site. By clicking on the colour panel it will bring up options to enter the hexadecimal colour code or select colours from the rainbow selection on offer.

The photos options allow you to select the border colours of your photos. 

One of the great things about Smugmug is it allows you to disable right clicks on your photos, which stops people downloading your photos. Here you can send them a nice message if you want!

Here you have no choice but to leave the Smugmug brand on your set. You can select whether or not to show the full or mini Smugmug footer.

Of course you can always upload a custom footer from you computer. 

Now back to the navigation bar thats seen in the header options. When you select navigation bar builder this window pops up

Here you add as many as titles to your navigation bar. In the left box you give it whatever name you want. I have mine titled galleries, journal, black and white and cityscapes. In the second box, you can select a number of options, including URL (where you select your own URL) or you can point the title to any of your galleries or your own URL if you want. For example I use to journal link to point to this blog. 

The other options allow you to select font, font size, colours and all sorts of appearance options. 

So thats how I customized my Smugmug site, made it match my blog and now I'm really happy with its appearance. It's so easy even I could do it. 

Monday, 31 January 2011

Children of Lir

The Children of Lir is an Irish legend that we all learn and read about growing up. The basic premise of the story is that the 4 children of King Lir are turned to swans by their jealous stepmother and forced to roam the lakes of Ireland for 900 years.

There is a statue on the median on Dame St in Dublin commemorating the story and because of the traffic flowing through the area, its an interesting area to do long exposures and capture light trails.

Children of Lir

This first shot is a 13 second exposure in which I tried to capture the traffic moving in both directions. 

Children of Lir

This second shot is a 6 second exposure and I was lucky to catch a bus moving across the frame, while crossing the road, giving a really interesting effect. The long exposure gives the water from the fountain a nice milky look. 

I have previously written a post on how I shoot light trails and if your interested in trying them out, you should give it a read. 

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Nik Dfine

I recently downloaded the trial version of Nik's Dfine software and after 2 days I had to buy it. This software is incredible and for the money really boosts the range of my entry point SLR - the Nikon D3000.

Previously when using this camera in low light, with a 35mm 1.8 I still had to push the ISO up to 800 to get, for me, an acceptable shot. This little camera is great and I love it but pushing its ISO to 1600 or Hi 1 always gave me pictures that I wasn't happy with. But since I got this software, my perspective has changed. I'm now going over some of my old shots and recovering them and making prints that I love.

 London Eye - Before Nik Dfine
Londen Eye - After Nik Dfine

This shot was taken handheld with my 35mm 1.8 at ISO 800. I really liked the photo and after applying Nik Dfine, the print I made at 8x10 looked fantastic. 

New Orleans Musician - Before Nik Dfine
New Orleans Musician - After Nik Dfine

This shot was taken in a Bar in New Orleans, this guy playing was amazing. I took this at ISO 1600 and after processing with the software it really picked this photo up. 

So if your having some trouble with noise in your photos I highly recommend downloading the 15 day trial of Nik Dfine and give it a shot. 


Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Shoot for the Moon!

The Moon

There is nothing like looking up at the sky and seeing a full moon on a cloudless night. For as long as the moon has been orbiting the earth it has had a huge influence on our planet and captured the imagination of man. Capturing the moon in a photo isn't too difficult either but there is one key thing you must remember and that is the light on the moon is sunlight so you need to expose properly. 

I took the shot above with my camera mounted on a tripod and at 200 mm. Ideally you'd use a longer lens but that is the longest in my current arsenal. I had the camera set on manual and set to f/8 with a shutter speed of 1/250th of a second. ISO was set to 100 to keep the noise to a minimum. 

This shot is heavily cropped because of the focal length used but the detail in the image is still remarkable. So next time you have a clear night, go take a photo of the moon, its quite a satisfying experience and when you go back and look at the photo and the detail you've captured, it'll always put a smile on your face. 


Thursday, 6 January 2011

My Favourite Flower

I've always enjoyed taking pictures of flowers, something about the deliberation, setting up and the time it takes setting and taking the photo really appeals to me. In the year I've been taking photos with a lot of care, I've paid more attention to the changing of the seasons and how our garden and city parks change.

This photo of a water lily is one of my favourite flowers I've captured. I was on holidays in Bordeaux, France so didn't have all my gear with me. We were wandering around the Jardin Public and behind the botanic gardens we came across this lily in a pond. I kneeled down and set my ISO to 800 so I could get a faster shutter speed. An aperture of 9 kept the green leaves enough in focus to my liking. I set the white balance to cloudy in post to warm up the photo. The colours of the lily, I found to be quite unusual and I often find myself coming back to view this photo. So as the title suggests, this is my favourite flower photo, so far....

Friday, 17 December 2010

Sold My First License

Samuel Beckett Bridge and Convention Centre, Dublin  .

Nearly a year to the day since I started shooting with my DSLR and I sold my first license. It all came about in an unexpected way. I have many photos on flickr and I recieved a flickr mail from a website designer in Cork who was looking for an image of the Samuel Beckett bridge in Dublin. We emailed back and forth for a few days working out a price based on how the image would be used etc. This was a really new thing for me so I consulted websites including Getty (which suprisingly has no images of the Beckett bridge) and Current Photographer and I'm still not sure if I priced appropriately.

Yesterday the cheque arrived and the photo is now up on the 'Franc in the city' website. I was amazed at how easy the whole process was and of course was very chuffed to have my photo selected and used. The whole event really highlighted the importance of keywording all your photos so they can be found. Now I must finished tagging all my smugmug photos.