Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Best Pixelpost addons

If you want to create your own ‘one photo a day’ photoblog, there are of course several existing free services available like Aminus3, etc., but if you are more serious about photography and want your own domain name, gallery and blog, Pixelpost is open source and is a free, popular and reliable option to build your own photoblog. But since you are here, you already knew that and you have probably taken the decision to build your own blog yourself already.

Since Pixelpost is open source, people are invited to write templates and addons to extend the basic functionality. I’m using Pixelpost as base for my Monochrome.Me.Uk blog and installation turned out to be very easy. Below I summarize my experiences with the addons and other services I like best and ended up using for my blog:

The only thing left to do is to pick the template that fits you and your photos best. Have fun!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Should you expose for shadows or highlights?

The short answer is that it is usually recommended that for digital photography you expose for the highlights as they get easily blown out and for film photography it is easier to lose detail in the shadows and easier to bring back detail in the highlights and therefore you need to expose for the shadows.
The more complicated answer is that it depends on what you want to do, what you are visualizing.

We all know that a strongly overexposed part of the photo turns to white and a very underexposed part of the photo turns to black, cutting off any texture that might have been hidden in those areas. Film and sensors do have a limited ability to record light. It can only capture light between specific intensities and these intensities are defined by the film or sensor you are using, this is the so called dynamic range.

Exposing for shadows

Make sure that the histogram is not cut off on the left side. Use your camera options to overexpose, if needed. You will have a lot of detail in he dark areas of your photo but you might have blown out the highlights.

Exposing for highlights

Make sure that the histogram is not cut off on the right side. Use your camera options to underexpose, if needed. You will have detail in the bright areas, but the darker areas will be clipped to black.

Exposing for the mid-tones

There is, of course, always the alternative to ignore the highlights and the shadows and just expose for the mid-tones. The drawback is also the benefit: clipping will occur on both ends of the histogram, but not as severely as when you expose for highlights or shadows.


This leads nicely to a discussion of HDRI and it is maybe a good idea to revisit the section about bracketing.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


The classical solution to improve your chances of getting the exposure correct has been bracketing: Take multiple shots with different settings to get different exposures of the same scene. Typically you take one shot exposed normally followed by one or more overexposed and one or more underexposed shots. Check your camera manual and it is very likely that your camera offers an auto-bracket option for exposure where you can set the number (usually three or five), order and step interval (1, 1/2 or 1/3 stops). My Pentax K20D has a special exposure bracket button on the outside of the camera to quickly switch between bracketing and non-bracketing, no doubt the other brands have similar functionality to avoid going through long setup menus.

Bracketing has always enjoyed a questionable reputation as it wastes a lot of film when used with film cameras and because of the randomness of the approach. True, without taking steps to correct the lightmeter, you are in fact taking several potshots to see if you can obtain a good result. However, when you take the prize of a correct exposure of a difficult shot, nobody will poke fun of you but applaud you for being careful.
On a Digital SLR, the waste of images is of course less of an issue, especially when you take the quickly dropping prices of memory into account (and you're not on a long trip with just the one memory card.) 

Let it be clear that you don't need bracketing unless you are confronted with a difficult subject. Still, no matter how easy bracketing sounds, you still need to make decisions about the number of exposure and the step intervals. You'll need to learn to judge the subject to make those decisions, but usually three exposures with steps of 1/2 a stop is a save bet. We'll be getting back about how to judge subjects.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Why do lightmeters fail?

To understand why light meters fail, we need to understand what light meters do: No matter if it is a through-the-lens (TTL) meter as found on compacts and (D)SLRs or a handheld meter, they all try to reduce the scene to a neutral tone. This tone is often called "18% gray" but the ANSI standard against which the light meters are calibrated is a luminance value that is closer to the reflectance of 12% gray. 12% gray or 18% gray, we don't really care at this point, but what I would like you to bring back from this is that light meters generate those settings that will render the dominant part of your photo into a neutral colour. It may come as a surprise, but this will do nicely for most photos. It is not until you take a photo of a scene where this doesn't apply that you start to run into problems.

Ever tried to take a portrait on a sunny day where the face came out too dark? If your camera allows it, you could walk up to the subject, take a light reading and lock it, walk back to get the composition you want and the face will be well exposed. By this time it is also be a good idea to see if your camera supports spotmetering.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Exposure and why do we care?

You bought an expensive (D)SLR with a state of the art through-the-lens (TTL) light meter operating in different modes, so why should you ever want to start thinking about exposure again? Surely those days have gone as it is now so many years after TTL light meters were first introduced? Haven't any bugs been ironed out by now? And I believe you that that advanced weighted multi-segment mode is state of the art.

The truth is that for most shots on all cameras, the built-in light meter does an excellent job that would be difficult to improve upon. However, if you start using your camera more and more, you'll notice that some shots are too dark or too light. The highlights are all blown out, or there is no detail or too much noise in the shadows which may result in a disappointment. This is not a malfunction of the light meter, it does what it is meant to do but recognizing those situations and improving those exposures is one of the subjects of this blog.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

RAW images

Camera RAW, Lightroom, GIMP, SilkyPix, Apple's Aperture, etc. all allow you to change the exposure settings after having taken the shot. Isn't going through all the trouble getting the correct exposure just for newbies shooting in JPEG? Any problem is easily fixed in post-processing!

As a test, just deliberately bracket a shot with lots of highlights and shadows with ± one or two stops under- and overexposure and open the RAW files in the post-processing program of your choice. Change the exposure settings in post-processing such that they all correspond to the neutral exposure; for example, for the one stop overexposed shot, move the slider back to underexpose it by one stop, etc.
I'm hoping that you get the same results as I encountered: Even though changing the exposure sliders will bring back details in the blown out highlights and shadows, it will also bring out noise and the results do look poorer when compared with the correctly exposed shot. Especially when the difference in exposure was large. My conclusion was that I could only get away ever so little with playing around with the exposure sliders, especially on the highlights that seem to suffer more than the shadows on most DSLRs when exposed incorrectly. More about shooting for highlights or shadows in a later post.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sparkling water and the Dutch terraces

Next time you visit Amsterdam, or the rest of Holland for that matter, insist on getting the bottle if you order some water or sparkling water. They’ll serve you tap water with some added bubbles otherwise and charge you €3,75 for it, and then are upset you don’t leave a tip. See here.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Another Code R: A Journey Into Lost Memories

Some answers to some of the puzzles for this game by Cing for the Nintendo Wii, don’t read if you don’t want to be spoiled. This is not a walkthrough, merely a list of some of the puzzles I found interesting. I believe the game in the US will be sold under the name Trace Memory R: A Journey Into Lost Memories when it is released.

I liked playing this game and I think that the mediocre reviews of this game are mostly due to people not liking this kind of game play. If you liked the first Another Code game on the DS or the Hotel Dusk: Room 215 game, you’ll love this game!

Please visit my gallery http://monochrome.me.uk/ for information


  • How to press the ‘3’ on the Wiimode /TAS? Press ‘1’ ‘+’ ‘2’.
  • How to press a ‘0’ on the Wiimode /TAS? Press ‘1’ ‘-‘ ‘1’ .
  • I never get a red gumball, does this stop me from completing the game? No, I never got any red gumball that I could exchange for the special gift either and I finished the game

How to get the dog to move from the hole in the fence?

  • See the beef jerky on the ground? Pick up a piece and move it to the right, the dog will follow.
  • Ashley doesn’t seem to be able to go through the hole in the fence, so I believe it is just a tiny puzzle to teach you how to crack the more important puzzles in the game.

What proof do I need to supply to the guy from the shop that I didn’t raid the storage room?

  • You should have taken a photo of the kid and the dog in the storage room and show it to him.

The kid keeps running away, where to find Matt this time?

  1. Did you check the well with the pump on the other side of the fence with the hole? (first time)
  2. In the cellar of the photographer’s cottage? (2nd time)
  3. Next to the tree close the boat house? (3rd time)
  4. Chat with the dog and get the dog to follow you. When you cross the covered bridge, have Princess sniff the drawing Matt gave you; Princess will lead you to Matt. (4th time)
  5. Past the JC Valley building entrance (5th time)

How to get the silver bracelet from the boathouse floor?

  • I didn’t manage to get it either, I guess noticing it is enough for the memories to be triggered.

How to get the bag from the lake?

  • Find the rope and the lifebelt and combine the two.
  • Tie the rope to the winch and throw the lifebelt over the bag and winch it back to you.

What is the code to open the bag?

  • Turn the family photo Matt gave you over and note that the lock contains the same names as are written on the back of the photo. Note that the words on the photo are shifted from each other.
  • Shift the words the same way as on the photo
  • The word to unlock the bag is ‘LAKE’

Where to find Matt’s treasure?

  • The drawing that Matt gives you contains a clue as to the number of steps to walk and in what direction measured from the tree.

What is Michael’s email password?

  • Find the used origami paper in the drawer in the desk with some marks on it, and fold it so it reveals the code. If the code doesn’t work, turn the number 180 degrees.

Where to find and how to get the guitar pick case?

  • Go to the half finished building where your bag was find according to Dan and you’ll see the pick case down the drain.
  • Get the hose you’ll find close by and connect it to the tap and turn on the tap.
  • The hose is leaking and you cannot use it as is.
  • Remember the roll of tape you saw in Richard’s desk when trying to break into his email? Fetch the tape and combine it with the hose
  • Connect the hose to the tap again and turn on the tap again.
  • The guitar pick case will float to the top.

Where to find clean water and how to make the medicine?

  • Get the red leaves from the plant in the glasshouse before leaving Charlotte
  • Charlotte will give you a pestle and mortar.
  • Fetch the kettle from Richard’s kitchen to keep the water in
  • Check the water at different locations and you’ll find that it is not polluted on the little bridge next to the shed where you found Matt hiding in the well.
  • Combine the leaves with the pestle and mortar
  • Use the Wiimode as pestle and turn the leaves into a powder
  • Get a pan from Richard’s kitchen

Do I give everything back to Elisabeth, including the access card that opened many doors?

  • It appears the answer is yes.

Getting the keys for the clock tower from Charlotte:

  • In the corner of the shed you find a clock/machine that holds the keys
  • Find the weights on the right of the clock holding the keys.
  • Hold on to at least one token from the recycling machine, don’t exchange them all for gumballs in hope to get a red gumball and a present. You’ll need a token as an extra weight to get the machine to release the keys.

The clock tower:

  • How do I get up the stairs? You’ll notice the stairs are broken and you’ll need to repair them.
  • Where to use the keys? Click on the central clock mechanism on the upper floors to reveal the location to use the keys.
  • In what order do I need to insert the keys?
    • Moon
    • Sword
    • Flower
  • How many times do I need to turn the keys and in what order?
    • Downstairs in the clock tower there are two paintings on the wall. Take photos and overlay these photos.
    • But hold on, this doesn’t give you the correct numbers, if you go back to the diary, you find a drawing of the clock arm, pointing to 5.
    • When overlaying the two photos, turn the image until the arm of the clock is on the 5. This gives you 1 turn for the Moon key, 4 turns for the Sword key and 6 turns for the Flower key, in this order.
  • Make sure you pick up the box from the clock mechanism
  • Make sure you pick up JC Valley badge from the floor downstairs.

Visit my blog: http://hoshisato.aminus3.com/ for information

The Crusoe building:

  • How do you get to the Crusoe office building when the road is blocked? Talk to Charlotte when you return the keys and she’ll show you a shortcut.
  • How do I get into the Crusoe building? Get Matt to go in via the first manhole to get inside the perimeter. You’ll find the manholes on the right side of the building. You’ll see a rat disappearing and reappearing, have Matt follow the same way.
  • How does Ashley get inside the perimeter? You hear some noise from the area of the security camera; inspect the camera on the DAS and you’ll see that a toolbox has fallen over. Show the DAS to Matt and he’ll fetch a saw. Saw through the rope and get in. Open the door with the TAS.
  • What to do inside the Crusoe office? Open the door to the right of the entrance and find a key for the other room.
  • Go to the other room and find the doll hidden in the locker by turning over the shelf. Give the doll to Matt by talking to him.
  • How to open the musical box? The journalist has the key, turn the box so it show the colours as shown in the key. Turn the music box by tilting the Wiimode.
  • Do I give the papers to the journalist to print? I did and at the end of the game the newspaper article is published

Visit my blog: http://blog.monochrome.me.uk/ for information

JC Valley

  • Ashley is in the meeting room where “Gina” left her, the door is locked and the TAS is out of batteries. How does she get out to find Richard? Look at the back of the TAS and click on the battery compartment. Take the battery out of the TAS and click on the wireless phone. Look at the back of the wireless phone and take the battery from it, put it in the TAS. Try the TAS on the lock again, they battery is still flat. Take the battery out again and put it back into the phone, put the phone on the charger. When fully charged, put battery in the TAS and use on the lock.
  • How to get the lipstick from the keypad? Use the cleaner from the meeting room’s cabinet. Shake before using.
  • What is the code for the keypad? It is today’s date as displayed on the desk: 08252007.
  • What to do in the security room? Call Richard on the video conferencing system
  • How to open the shutter that Sofia closed? Note that a couple of books are stuck under the shutter leaving a gap. You have to click on the gap even in the area that is not clearly marked yellow or else the game won’t proceed to the next step. If you have clicked on the right location in the gap, the game will remind you that there is a lock on the other side. Now you can enter the office of the researchers and pick up a mirror. Get the mirror and shove in through the gap. You still cannot see the lock so you’ll need to fetch the fishing pole. Move the mirror so you see the lock and use the TAS.
  • How to scan the encoded message? Note the arrow on the paper and the indents in the blocks of code? Cover all blocks with the scanner pen from the first one indicated by the arrow in one stroke such that the indents point to the next block.
  • Sofia fried the lock; how do I get out? Get in touch with Mike in Richard’s office and let him talk you through how to open the door.
  • How to open the emergency lock release cover? Use a guitar pick.
  • How to press the NESW keys  on the Wiimode/TAS? Use the D pad for North/Up, South/Down, etc.
  • How to type in A³ on the Wiimode/TAS? Press the A button three times.
  • How to type the ‘house’ like symbol on the Wiimode/TAS? Use the home button
  • How to turn the lions’ heads to open the secret compartment in Rex’s room? Read the book on the desk and take photos of the last two pages and when you superimpose them on top of each other and move to the right, they give you the 3 positions of the heads and the letters to pick
  • Where the find the box Ryan wants to have? Under the chocolate in Richard’s office
  • How to open the box? Take the kaleidoscope’s bottom from the drawer and attach it to the kaleidoscope. Turn it around and press all the buttons at the same time that correspond to the 3 figures you saw in the kaleidoscope.
  • What to do with the white device? Try combining it with your TAS.
  • How can Ashley combine the white device with the TAS? Plug a nunchuck into your Wiimode and the game will take the hint.
  • How to use the TAS on the control panel? Keep the Wiimode vertically upright and it’ll slide in after a while.

Are there different endings?

  • In the Another Code game for the Nintendo DS there were different endings possible depending on the choices you had made, and so did the Hotel Dusk game also made by Cing. Does Another Code R: A Journey Into Lost Memories also have different endings? I don’t know, you tell me. The ending that I had was that Ryan was going to give himself up, Matt’s father was supposedly seen somewhere, Charlotte let me know that I could visit her gardens any time, Elisabeth and her father talked it out and Charlotte’s daughter and husband showed up after 5 years.

How long does this game take and how many chapters are there?

  • There are 9 chapters in total and it took me almost 18:30 hours but I could have played faster.

Visit my other blog: http://monochrome.me.uk/blog/ for information

Friday, June 12, 2009

Millennium Park Panorama

Millennium Park Panorama

Just after 6, before the crowds arrive.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Chicago Skyline


Just before sunrise. The benefits of being jet-lagged and awake at 4AM.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

How to find locations!

Blaen Llia: the Afon Llia river

One of the problems I have always had was how to find great photo locations while having little time to spend in a town or country. A Travel Guide will give you the obvious shots, but limiting myself to those I never found satisfying. The solution I found is to scan Google Earth for the area I intend to travel for those little blue markers that indicate uploaded photos. If I find something I like, I note the latitude and longitude and enter those as waypoints (favourites) in my GPS unit.

To keep the system going, I have uploaded some of my photos to Panoramio which is the site Google uses to allow people to upload geotagged photos to Google Earth. Please have a look at the photos I uploaded.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009



Just some daffodils because they are so full of Spring feeling.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Northern Shoveler / Slobeend

Northern Shoveler / Slobeend

It has taken me years but yesterday finally I spotted a Northern Shoveler. Reminded me of Daffy Duck and I imagined it having a speech impediment: "You're despicable." :-)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Multi-exposure and automatic EV adjustment

sexy Richmond bridge Playing around with the advanced features of my Pentax K20D, in this case the multi-exposure and automatic EV adjustment. This bridge in Richmond in the photo above was never without buses, cars, cyclist or pedestrians, at one point even horses passed. The constant stream of traffic was very distracting and wouldn't make for a nice photo. I put the camera on my tripod and selected a multi-exposure of 9 shots and selected the option to automatically adjust the exposure for the number of shots selected. The result is a bridge without traffic. This is of course nothing new, photographers have been using long exposures for ages to make passing distractions disappear, however, it has never been easier to do and doesn't require ND filters and the like. Exactly the same technique can be used to make photos of streaming water obtain that silky flow.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Freeze Frame

The Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge made lots of fabulous photos available of Scott and other arctic explorers. See here.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

My new gallery

beautiful rose hunter moon

A heads-up that I am in the process of creating my own gallery under the name of monochrome.me.uk. Please visit.